ANNAPOLIS, MD. - Every election cycle, the issue of voting rights for non-citizens becomes a heated topic in the United States. Some argue that non-citizens should not be allowed to vote in federal, state, or local elections as they are not citizens and do not hold political power. In contrast, others believe allowing them to exercise their right to vote would benefit the country.
But the fact is that there is a long history of non-citizen voting in U.S. elections. During the pre-Revolutionary period and Reconstruction era, 40 states at various points allowed non-citizens to vote in local, state, and federal elections. This was done to incentivize immigrants to move into particular areas and help with population growth.
The last stronghold of non-citizen voting ended in 1926 when Arkansas banned it. Today, 15 municipalities across the country have passed laws allowing non-citizens to vote in local elections - jurisdictions such as Washington DC., New York City and San Francisco are some of them - but this has been met with much opposition from many Republican lawmakers who fear that this could lead to undocumented immigrants being able to swing votes more easily.
These fears are rooted mainly in age-old xenophobia and racism, often overlooking immigrants who have become integral parts of their communities. In addition, immigrants contribute significantly both financially and socially within U.S. society through taxes they pay on goods they purchase, services they use, and income taxes deducted from their weekly wages. Yet, they do this without having access to fundamental human rights like voting, which can grant them greater representation on crucial issues pertaining directly to them, such as housing affordability or healthcare initiatives – all of which affect their lives profoundly despite not being citizens themselves.
At present, there are over 25 million non-citizens living in America, according to data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; 9 million legal permanent residents among them are eligible for U.S. citizenship yet facing significant barriers due to high costs related to application fees or requirements for education or employment. All compounded even further by language barriers preventing applicants from understanding certain paperwork or documents needed during the process.
Non-citizen voting offers a way around these challenges by granting individuals with limited resources access to a form of representation through local ballots instead, allowing them much-needed involvement in community decisions made daily on budgets or public works projects that directly impact their lives while potentially paving pathways towards citizenship if granted full enfranchisement at some point down the line (given current restrictions).
In sum, while it is understandable why those opposed might feel threatened by allowing immigrants more political agency when exercising their right to vote without being citizens first – particularly given how bitterly contested U.S. elections have become lately – Americans need to recognize how integral non-citizens already are within our communities economically regardless of voter status. This is something we need now more than ever during these trying times, given how essential immigrants tend to be when responding, helping us respond rapidly during emergencies like hurricanes or pandemics like COVID-19.
Allowing them full access to enfranchisement through appropriate measures makes sense if we wish for broader participation from everyone within our society regardless of legal status – something that ultimately benefits us all greatly anyway: especially now when so many vital decisions about our future depend upon it.
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