In Advance Of NYC Council Hearing, Immigrant Advocates Push For Critical Bill Expanding Immigrant Municipal Voting Rights

Today, the Our City, Our Vote Coalition (OCOV), led by the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) and United Neighborhood Houses.

Were joined by immigrant rights and civic engagement advocates and allies to demand the immediate passage of New York City Council bill Intro 1867, which would expand the right to vote in municipal elections to immigrant New Yorkers with legal permanent residence status or work authorization.

In June, the legislation (Introduction 1867) to enfranchise nearly one million New Yorkers obtained a large majority of co-sponsors, which secured a hearing on the bill (scheduled for Monday, September 20th at 10am). In contrast to the increased assaults on voting rights across the country by Republicans, New York City can set an example of what democracy can look like in one of the biggest cities in the country by passing this legislation and enfranchising New Yorkers who have had no voice in their city for far too long.



“Every New Yorker deserves to have their voice heard by the people elected to represent their communities and interests,” said Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition. “Despite contributing to our city in tax dollars throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly one million New Yorkers remain silent in our local democracy. As Republican voter suppression efforts continue to silence communities across the country, it is more important than ever that the New York City Council expeditiously usher in the largest enfranchisement in a generation for our city. Swiftly passing Intro 1867 will ensure that the immigrant New Yorkers that make up the diverse communities integral to our city are empowered in municipal elections to shape the decisions that impact their daily lives.”

New York City has a duty to create a democracy inclusive of and accountable to everyone who calls it home,” said Susan Stamler, Executive Director, United Neighborhood Houses. “As COVID-19 continues to impact our neighborhoods, it has never been more important to ensure all residents living, working, and paying taxes in our city can have a voice in our government. Settlement houses know firsthand that ensuring neighborhoods are politically engaged results in better public policies that make our city stronger. We urge the City Council to take swift action and pass Intro 1867 to finally enfranchise those who have been left out of the political process.”

“I want to make it very clear for everyone. Neither federal or state law prevents New York City from extending the right to vote in municipal elections to non-citizens. This is about no taxations without representation. We must recognize the contributions made by our immigrant brothers and sisters. This is not about granting a favor to immigrants by allowing them to vote. If they pay their taxes they should have a right to elect their local leaders, and if people have a problem with this then they should move to another town or another country that has not been built by immigrants,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “The City of Tacoma Park in Maryland has been allowing non-citizens to vote in their municipal elections since the 1990’s. And many of the arguments our conservative colleagues have been making against the bill, have never happened. We fought hard to pass laws that allow non-citizens to get their drivers license, created IDNYC, and a higher education scholarship program so non-citizen New Yorkers can advance their studies and continue to contribute to our City.  We were told many times this was not possible and yet we made it possible. It is now time that we enfranchise our immigrant New Yorkers so that they can elect and hold accountable their local leaders.”

“Immigrants make New York City special, and they deserve the right to elect their local representatives,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams. “It’s time to allow non-citizens who hold green cards and work authorization to participate in our city’s democratic process. Empowering and enfranchising our immigrant communities will help make our City stronger.”

“For many years, I watched my mother work long hours, she paid her taxes regularly, shopped in the community, yet she was unable to cast a vote to have a voice in who represents our community because she was not yet a citizen,” said Council Member Selvena N. Brooks-Powers. “Immigrants are the backbone of New York’s culture and economy, but without the right to vote for local offices, their voices go unheard. We all live, work, and play as New Yorkers, and deserve an equal say in how our municipal government serves us. I am proud to join Councilmember Rodriguez and our colleagues in fighting to enfranchise our immigrant neighbors and ensure that our City’s government is accountable to everyone.”

“Over one million New Yorkers who send their kids to our public schools, own small businesses, and build our neighborhoods currently lack the fundamental right to participate in our civic life by electing the government that runs our city,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “New York is a city of immigrants, it’s time that immigrants have the chance to shape our city at the ballot box. I’m grateful for the many years of advocacy and leadership from immigrant New Yorkers and Council Member Rodriguez to get us to this critical hearing.”

New York City is a city of immigrants, and yet, over 1 million of them still cannot cast a ballot here. I’m proud to sponsor Intro. 1867, which would expand voting rights access to non-citizens who live and work in our city,” said Council Member Keith Powers. “It’s past time we empower these communities so they can participate in our democratic process, and I thank Council Member Rodriguez for his work on this issue.”

“A truly fair and just democracy includes everyone, and yet nearly one million New Yorkers with Green Cards or work authorizations are ineligible to vote in local elections. We have the opportunity to honor our inclusive values by ensuring our City’s government is shaped by the people who live here,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera. “We are a Sanctuary City – a city of immigrants: we have a duty to welcome all who call New York home to vote without question or fear. With voting rights under attack nationwide, we must lead in the effort to make voting more inclusive, accessible, and democratic.”

“900,000 New York immigrants are unjustly shut out of our democracy,” said Assembly Member Catalina Cruz, Chair of the Taskforce on New Americans. “The City Council has the legal authority and the obligation to move this legislation forward so that we can strengthen our democracy and be a more inclusive city. I implore them to take this critical step immediately.”

“New York has always been a city of immigrants. We owe our legacy of success and growth in large part to the many who left their homes and moved here in search of a better life,” said NYS Senator Brad Hoylman. “These New Yorkers are already a part of our community, they are our neighbors, and yet they do not have a say in our local elections. We should expand democracy and the electorate by allowing the nearly one million non-citizen New Yorkers to vote in municipal elections. I urge the City Council to pass Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez’ Introduction #1867 and set an example for the nation.”

“New York is a city of opportunity, and today we have an opportunity to expand municipal voting rights to everyone who lives in and has built this city,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “NYC is full of immigrants who pay taxes but have no say in who governs them. This is unacceptable. In America’s greatest city, we must lead on enfranchising people who are eager to participate in our democracy.”

“We at the Black Institute feel strongly for this legislation,” said Adeel Ahmed, Community Organizer at The Black Institute. “We see it as a primary issue of representation for people of color who make up most permanent residents in New York City. There are already countless issues disproportionately targeting black and brown people electorally whether it is through gerrymandering, disproportionate incarceration of people of color, etc. This situation is another example of injustice against people of color. Allowing 1 million permanent residents being allowed to vote is in its essence racial justice.”

“Immigrants are the backbone of New York City, and despite being such an integral component of La Gran Manzana/The Big Apple, they are prevented from participating in the most basic process of our democracy, voting. LatinoJustice PRLDEF supports Our City Our Vote to lift the voices of immigrant New Yorkers at the polls,” said Fulvia Vargas De Leon, Associate Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “The enfranchisement of over one million immigrant New Yorkers is a step towards formally integrating their civic participation and ensuring they have a voice in electing officials who are responsive and reflective of their needs. We call on the City Council to take action and enfranchise a community that for far too long has been shut out of the electoral process.”

New York City has an opportunity to profoundly empower immigrant communities and increase civic participation by granting non-citizen voting,” said Wayne Ho, President and CEO of the Chinese-American Planning Council. “I strongly urge the City Council to pass Intro 1867 which would allow nearly one million of our fellow New Yorkers, including many in the AAPI community, to help shape and direct the future of our city.”

“Expanding voting rights to immigrant New Yorkers will lead to greater civic engagement, accountability, and opportunity that is more reflective of the makeup of our City,” said Michelle Jackson, Executive Director of the Human Services Council. “This bill is more urgent than ever in the wake of COVID-19 as it will build the political power of New Yorkers who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and excluded from many COVID-19 relief programs. We strongly encourage the Speaker to swiftly schedule Intro. 1867 for a full council vote following today’s committee hearing.”

“Women Creating Change (WCC) has been advocating for voting rights and civic engagement for more than 100 years,” said Carole Wacey, President & CEO of Women Creating Change. “Having been directly involved in the women’s suffrage movement, WCC is proud to raise our voices once again to expand democracy as part of the Our City, Our Vote Coalition. By extending the right to vote in local elections to nearly 900,000 immigrants with legal permanent residence and work authorizations, Intro. 1867 would provide more New Yorkers with the opportunity to exercise their civic voice on issues that affect them—and will strengthen all our communities.”

Background

The Our City, Our Vote coalition supports groundbreaking legislation to expand democracy in New York City so green card holders and those authorized to work in the United States can vote in elections for city-level offices. Introduction 1867 would allow New York City residents, who are otherwise qualified to register under New York State election law, to vote in municipal elections. Today, the New York City Council will hold a hearing on the bill, after the OCOV coalition secured a supermajority of co-sponsors in June. Nearly one million New York City residents cannot vote in local elections due to their citizenship status, despite paying taxes and being invested in and contributing to the city.

New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) is an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for more than 200 groups in New York State. We envision a New York state that is stronger because all people are welcome, treated fairly, and given the chance to pursue their dreams. Our mission is to unite immigrants, members, & allies so all New Yorkers can thrive. We represent the collective interests of New York’s diverse immigrant communities and organizations and devise solutions to advance them; advocate for laws, policies, and programs that lead to justice and opportunity for all immigrant groups; and build the power of immigrants and the organizations that serve them to ensure their sustainability, to improve people’s lives, and to strengthen our state.

United Neighborhood Houses (UNH) is a policy and social change organization representing 44 neighborhood settlement houses that reach 765,000 New Yorkers from all walks of life. A progressive leader for more than 100 years, UNH is stewarding a new era for New York’s settlement house movement. We mobilize our members and their communities to advocate for good public policies and promote strong organizations and practices that keep neighborhoods resilient and thriving for all New Yorkers. UNH leads advocacy and partners with our members on a broad range of issues including civic and community engagement, neighborhood affordability, healthy aging, early childhood education, adult literacy, and youth development. We also provide customized professional development and peer learning to build the skills and leadership capabilities of settlement house staff at all levels.

Photo credit: I am vote.

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