Listen to this story as it appeared on WNYU here.
Immigrant New Yorkers deserve a voice in their city.
A super-majority has been secured on Introduction 1867, which would expand the right to vote in municipal elections to immigrant New Yorkers with legal permanent resident status or work authorization. To celebrate this achievement, on June 17, 2021, activists, members of local government and community members rallied at Corona Plaza, the heart of immigrant New York in Queens, demanding an immediate hearing on this legislation.
Nearly one million immigrant voices will be excluded from the upcoming elections for city offices including the City Council, Mayor, Comptroller and ballot initiatives. We live in a democracy, yet one million taxpayers, workers and family members will have no say in the direction of their city.
“No taxation without representation!” shouted protesters.
These voices belong to those on the front lines of the pandemic. According to a report by the Center for Immigration Studies, 31 percent of New York’s essential workers are legal permanent residents. These immigrant workers makeup one third of health care sector workers and have provided a central role in sustaining the wellbeing of NYC through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To me, this would be a representation of my community, because we have about 45,000 Nepali community members who are documented, yet they haven’t been able to vote just because they don’t have citizenship,” Doma Lama, social worker and community activist, said. For Lama, passing Intro 1867 would give her community the opportunity to elect officials that represent the interests of her Nepali community, encourage civic engagement in her neighborhood, and finally grant the opportunity to have a say in issues that directly affect them.
These elected officials can also advocate for undocumented immigrants who would not gain suffrage through Intro 1867, 70 percent of whom are essential workers.
Legal immigrant workers pay taxes, yet have no say where those dollars go. They are essential workers, yet have no say in how stimulus funds are distributed. Immigrants have historically been the backbone of many NYC neighborhoods, but have no say in how public policies will directly affect their families.
In alliance with Our City, Our Vote, and the New York Immigration Coalition, City Council Member Francisco Moya was the last co-sponsor of the bill. “I am proud to support this bill and thrilled that my co-sponsorship established a super-majority on a historic piece of legislation that will give a voice to nearly a million New Yorkers,” Moya said at the rally. Moya’s signature established the super-majority, making the bill veto-proof. This automatically triggers a required hearing on the bill in 60 days.
The rally called for a swift vote on the legislation in time for the upcoming historic mayoral election.
Update as of September 17th, 2021:
“I don’t believe it is legal,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show. He suggested he would prefer people go through the full naturalization process to gain the right to vote. Some New Yorkers believe suffrage should be exclusive to only American citizens and that this bill will diminish citizenship in America. However, according to Our City, Our Vote, there are no federal or state laws explicitly prohibiting NYC from expanding the right to vote in local elections. The organization also pointed out that the route to citizenship is complicated, takes many years, and requires thousands of dollars, excluding many New Yorkers from the process.
Introduction 1867 is still stalled, and proponents of the bill are getting restless, continuing to protest for it to be passed. According to ABC News, a vote on the measure is set for December 8th, and if passed would come into effect January 1st, 2022.