Council Majority Supports Immigrant Voting Rights

16.04.2013 - New York - Pressenza IPA

Council Majority Supports Immigrant Voting Rights
(Image by The Council of the City of New York)

A majority of the NYC Council now supports legislation that would restore the rights of all documented residents to vote in municipal elections. With 28 co-sponsors, the bill is just six signatures shy of a veto-proof majority in the City Council.

The announcement was made at a press conference on the steps of City Hall on Tax Day, when the NY Coalition to Expand Voting Rights protested the fact that one out of every five tax-paying New Yorkers has no voice in the decision-making process that affects their daily lives. This is “taxation without representation” and it has no place in our democracy.
“Voting embodies the principles of equality and fairness upon which our democracy is based,” said NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst) who chairs the Council’s Immigration Committee and is the chief sponsor of the bill. “When all contributing members of our society can participate, democracy is better served, and everyone benefits. The fact that more than half the NYC Council now supports immigrant voting rights marks a momentous opportunity for us to emphasize the growing support for the expansion of democracy throughout New York City.”
1.3 million noncitizen residents pay billions in state, sales and real estate taxes, the same as citizens, and they are responsible for $229 billion in economic output in our state. Yet they have no voice in how tax revenues are spent.
“We currently have 1.3 million unrepresented tax paying New Yorkers, whose interests are not accounted for by any government,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “Our country was founded on fighting taxation without representation, yet this continues today uninhibited. For a group that contributes so greatly to our city’s economy and culture to not be represented, has presented a major dilemma that this bill seeks to rectify. I will work with Council Member Dromm on this piece of important legislation to see it passed immediately.”
“New York City’s democracy is only as strong as the ability of its people to vote. New York’s immigrant communities pay taxes, and work hard to provide for their families, but far too many do not have the right to vote,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Intro 410 is an important step forward by allowing immigrants of all races, ethnicities, and nationalities with legal status the right to vote in local elections. Intro 410 will strengthen our democracy and the lives of immigrants who each day are contributing to the city’s vitality.”
“It is shocking to the conscience that we have people living legally in our city, who are working and contributing to the tax base, yet cannot vote in our elections,” said Council Member Debi Rose (49th Council District, SI, and Chair, Committee on Civil Rights). “The very foundation upon which this country was founded was ‘no taxation without representation.’ How can you select the representative of your choice if you can’t vote? The time for this bill is here and now – in fact, it is over 250 years overdue! I hope all council members will join me in supporting Intro 410.”
“Law abiding, lawfully admitted immigrants are essential to the social fabric of this City,” said Council Member Diana Reyna.  “As Chair of the Committee on Small Business, I see the incredible impact immigrant entrepreneurs have on our local economy. From your neighborhood’s corner store to tech startups, immigrants are building, employing, and expanding. It is time that we acknowledge the worth of our immigrant neighbors, friends and family and allow them the right to vote in the City’s elections.”
“We’re asking to reinstate a basic democratic practice,” said coalition member, Ron Hayduk, Professor, Department of Political Science, Queens College, CUNY. “Restoring voting to all residents was what NYC practiced from 1969-2002 in Community School Board elections. Everyone should have a say in policies that affect them on a daily basis, which in turn, would improve make our laws and government.”
Allowing all residents to vote is a proven method of facilitating voter participation, immigrant incorporation and government accountability.
“This is the next step in the ongoing civil rights movement,” said coalition member, Cheryl Wertz, Co-Founder of the New York Coalition to Expand Voting Rights. “It is about eliminating arbitrary barriers to participation.”
“The Asian American community has a tremendous stake in this legislation,” said Steven Choi, the Executive Director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action. “Over 70% of the city’s Asian Americans are immigrants. Many are long-time, hard-working, taxpaying residents who not yet eligible to vote. They are long-time green card holders, professionals here on extended visas, or simply citizens who have not registered. But even citizens face challenges just in registering, including uncertainty about their eligibility and confusion regarding the registration process.  We call on each and every City Council member to support this legislation.”
“When only half of the people in some neighborhoods are allowed to make decisions for the entire community, our democratic process is in crisis. Immigrants pay more than $18.2 billion dollars a year in New York State income taxes. They are not only daily users of public transportation, schools, and hospitals, they provide a significant portion of the funding for those institutions,” says coalition member, Irma Rodriguez, Executive Director of Queens Community House, a community-based nonprofit organization that serves 30,000 Queens residents each year, many of whom are immigrants and first generation Americans.
“As a network of non-profit settlement houses that have been serving low income and immigrant communities for decades – some for over 100 years – we recognize the unfortunate reality that immigrant communities’ inability to form a voting base with political power means that their needs, particularly in terms of access to affordable housing, legal services and English classes, are not prioritized,” said Annetta Seecharran, Director of Policy & Advocacy at United Neighborhood Houses. “Yet ironically, it is these very communities that form the life blood of NYC – performing important jobs that keep our City running, while also contributing over $215 billion in economic activity to the local economy every year. As our nation embraces the need for a humane overall of the immigration system, United Neighborhood Houses urges New York City to adopt Intro 410 which would bring municipal voting rights to legal permanent residents in the City and afford them a long overdue voice in our political process.”
“We are about to witness a new and a rather unconventional contribution of the immigrant community in New York,” said coalition coordinator David Andersson, Director of the Humanist Party. “This time, it will not be with work and cheap labor, or with cultural art and entertainment, or even with food. It will be by resuscitating our old and paralyzed democracy. Let’s pass Intro 410 now, let’s expand our democracy.”
“This bill is so important because I want to empower my students, giving them tools and skills to fight for change, and making them understand that what they have to say is important,” says Laura Berson, Government teacher at Brooklyn International High School. “How can I teach this and then say, ‘Oh, by the way, you can’t vote for the people who can make these changes, even though you pay taxes.’”
“I support this bill because if people live in New York they should have the right to create a better community; we are all New Yorkers,” said YiYi Pan, a senior at Brooklyn International High School.
“I am an Irish gay activist and New York is my home,” says Brendan Fay, Marriage Equality activist and filmmaker. “Politicians are asking for my support and my vote and yet as a legal resident I am denied this right. New York City will be transformed by the political participation of all legal residents. The era of shrinking democracy is done. It is time to expand the right to vote to all legal residents!”

 

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