With immigration reform a huge debate in American politics, one Connecticut mayor is trying to let illegal immigrant residents in his town take part in the discussion by letting their voices be heard at the ballot box.
Mayor John DeStefano of New Haven, Connecticut, is proposing to give illegal immigrants and other non-U.S. citizens the right to vote. DeStefano has already brought several innovative immigration services to New Haven, including resident cards, which debuted four years ago.
While New Haven is known for its diverse population and welcoming attitude towards newcomers, several other cities, such as San Francisco and New York City, have avoided the subject of the rights of illegal immigrants in their political systems, despite being known as “sanctuary cities” for alien residents, according to The Associated Press.
New Haven, whose total population is approximately 125,000, has an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 illegal immigrants, according to the AP.
Unlike other cities and states, New Haven’s law enforcement officers are prohibited from asking residents about their immigration status, whether police suspect a person being questioned has the proper immigration forms or not. DeStefano instituted these guidelines for police so that all citizens can feel safe in New Haven, regardless of their immigration status. However, he might face a difficult road in instituting his plan to give illegal immigrants the vote in New Haven, as some say it would require an amendment to the state’s constitution to do so.
Illegal immigrants voting in American elections is nothing new, however. Between 2003 and 2005, 3 percent of the 30,000 called for jury duty in just one district were illegal immigrants, according to The Institute on Religion and Policy’s news affiliate, The Cutting Edge News. Since all jury duty personnel are chosen from the district’s voting pool, this statistic indicates several thousand illegal immigrants have been helping mold America’s political history for some time. For those who take the impact of the illegal immigrant vote with a grain of salt, the source reminded readers that 3 percent of the vote in Florida was the margin of victory in the 2000 presidential election.