Really, Harlem Elected To Make Citizenship Irrelevant?

March 6, 2016

Melissa-Mark-Viverito (1)The New York Post reports that New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has long refused to pledge even ceremonial allegiance to the American flag. No surprise, then, that she displays no respect for American citizenship, either.

Mark-Viverito wants to grant voting rights to non-citizens — including, perhaps, illegal immigrants — in all municipal elections. And she’s not alone.

Meanwhile, New York state’s newly minted Education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, champions licensing illegal immigrants to teach in New York’s public schools, as well as to practice 52 other regulated professions. Not that her views really matter, of course. The state Board of Regents just approved the change. (It’s a going-away present from Chancellor Merryl Tisch, soon to depart after seven years as former Assembly speaker Shelly Silver’s hand-picked education czar.)

To be sure, both schemes come wrapped in pretty ribbons.

“I believe that in a democracy, everybody should participate, and I don’t see how you call something a democracy when you don’t give everybody that opportunity to participate,” said Queens Councilman Daniel Dromm, Mark-Viverito’s point-person for non-citizen voting.

“They are American in every way but immigration status. They’ve done everything right,” Elia says. “They’ve worked hard in school, some have even served in the military, but when it’s time to apply for a license, they’re told, ‘Stop. That’s far enough.’ We shouldn’t close the door on their dreams.”

Mark-Viverito’s short-term goal is to clear the way for immigrant voting in next year’s elections for mayor, comptroller, public advocate, borough president and City Council.

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Elia and the Regents are playing a longer game. They seek to normalize the idea that formal citizenship doesn’t really matter — and that insisting on it as a prerequisite for voting is at best discriminatory, and most likely racist.

Meanwhile, what Mark-Viverito wants, she gets. “I’ve been supportive of the legislation in the past, and [I] continue to be supportive,” she says — having already cobbled together veto-proof council support for the alien-voting bill that Dromm is fronting. (Mayor de Blasio, once again, is outside looking in.)

Indeed, the only open question at this point is whether the franchise will be restricted to “lawful” aliens — green-card holders — or whether anybody who manages to hop the fence can then waltz right into a voting booth. And there is significant support for this approach.

Now, wouldn’t Boss Tweed be envious; he was a master at harvesting votes from immigrants — but he was never able to pull off a coup like this.

‘Shouldn’t the pursuit of the American dream mean becoming an American?’

Support for the Mark-Viverito-Dromm scheme ranges from the left-leaning usual suspects to hard-core-lefties — with Citizens Action of New York (“We work to elect progressive candidates!”) leading the way; hyperpolitical unions like the Service Employees International Union and Communications Workers of America following; activists of all sorts bobbing along in the wake — and George Soros’ Open Society Institute writing lots of checks.

All in all, the NY Post feels they’re plowing a fertile field.

  • City officials estimate that there are some 1.3 million immigrants living in New York, perhaps 500,000 of them illegally — all of them potential Democrats, and in sum enough to pump up the city’s voter registration roll far beyond its present 4.1 million.
  • Overall, an estimated 40% of New York City residents are foreign-born — perhaps 3 million-plus total — most of whom are a positive and productive presence in the city.
  • It is true that most non-citizen New Yorkers work — even if off the books — and thus pay taxes while otherwise strengthening their communities. But that’s no proper justification for automatic access to the voting booth. Equity runs two ways.
  • New York’s entitlements — principally welfare and Medicaid — don’t pay for themselves. Nor do the other public services — including schools and police and fire protection — available to all non-citizen residents simply by virtue of their presence.
  • Then there is the matter of fairness: Non-citizen voting would display profound disrespect to the millions upon millions of immigrants who came here and willingly — indeed, enthusiastically — embraced America.Thus while immigrants give, they also receive. Not to put too fine a point on it, if immigrants didn’t get the better part of the deal, most wouldn’t have come to New York in the first place.

The path was not easy, for citizenship is not a commodity to be conferred, it’s a status to be earned — and not simply for its own sake. Shouldn’t the pursuit of the American dream mean becoming an American?

The United States almost uniquely accepts immigrants from virtually every culture on earth, inspiring in them an appreciation of — and an allegiance to — the nation’s singular values.

The immigrant prospers, yes. But more importantly, so does the nation. America’s strength resides in the bonds forged by the citizenship process — and if you doubt this, ask yourself why people like George Soros now seek to break those bonds by discarding the process.

What a pity that New York’s political class is marching right along — all for the sake of a few more votes.

What do you think?

Editor’s note: Parts of this editorial has been edited for Harlem World Magazine. We look forward to the update of this story.

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