Non-citizen voters

In some school districts in California, a large bloc of parents can’t vote in school board elections because they’re not citizens. San Francisco officials want to put an initiative on the state ballot to let non-citizen parents of public schoolchildren vote in school elections. Public school parents who are illegal immigrants also would be able to vote. Almost one-fifth of adult Californians are non-citizens, says the San Jose Mercury News:

“It’s almost a necessity for many cities,” said Joaquin Avila, a law professor at the University of California-Los Angeles and a voting-rights expert who wrote a 2003 study on non-citizen voting and its potential impact on California. “You can’t have a growing number of residents in your jurisdictions that are not part of the body politic. ”

Matt Gonzalez, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and author of the proposal, favors non-citizen voting in all city elections.

Until 1926, almost two dozen states allowed non-citizens to vote. Chicago and several suburban towns in Maryland allow the practice, and Washington, D.C., is considering doing the same. New York City, which for decades allowed non-citizens, regardless of their immigration status, to vote in school board elections, also is looking to open up the vote in all local elections.

Unions have a lot of clout in school board elections because members and their relatives turn out to vote when so many people don’t. But I’m not sure enfranchising immigrants would make much difference — assuming it’s legal and practical to tie voting rights to school enrollment. Many immigrants haven’t become citizens because they have mixed feelings, or no feelings at all, about participating fully in this country. Illegals tend to lie low. I’d bet the majority of non-citizen immigrants won’t bother to vote if it becomes possible. After all, most citizens don’t bother to vote in local elections.

I also worry about extending the rights of citizenship — and voting is the biggie — to people who haven’t made that commitment.

About Joanne


  1. Illegal alien parents need to be deported, not extended voting rights. And if that means they have to take their kids (US citizens or not) back home with them, then so be it.

    One of my great frustrations is the policy that districts down here have of terminating employees who report student and/or parent immigration status irregularities.

  2. Citizenship has its advantages, and voting is among the most important privilege.

    Just as home schoolers shouldn’t be on school teams, non-citizens shouldn’t vote on school boards. Membership makes the difference.

  3. Do they pay taxes that support the schools?
    Do they serve on juries when someone is being tried for a criminal act?
    (Considering that it is technically a criminal offense to be in the U.S. undocumented, I would guess no to both)

    I’m uncomfortable with this idea. Not as uncomfortable as I am with the idea that was floated a while back about giving children and teens a “portion” of a vote – effectively, making large families “count” more than single people or widows or widowers – but I’m still uncomfortable.

    But like Joanne said, considering the turnout of LEGAL residents on election day, it may be a moot point.

  4. Roy W. Wright says:

    What TexasTeacher said. Deport ’em all.

  5. JimInNOVA says:

    I have to agree. When they show up to vote, make sure there’s an INS van outside to take them right to a boarder patrol holding cell for deportation proceedings.

  6. Withholding the right to vote seemed to me to be an incentive for immigrants to take on the mantel of US citizenship. If immigrants (even illegals) can get all of the benefits of being a US citizen without taking on any of the responsibility then why would they bother? It cheapens citizenship and is a slap in the face to all of us who abided by the law and jumped through all of the legal hoops to become US citizens.

  7. I’ve known legal alien residents who have only made the leap to citizenship once their children entered the local public schools. I’m not sure of the logic behind this; perhaps having American children cemented their committment somehow, although all of them considered themselves here permanantly (most had immigrated with their parents as small children, but had never become citizens).

  8. Tim from Texas says:

    Can’t deport them all now and the constant flow of immigrants won’t ever be stopped until a National ID Card for U.S. citizens is made law. Then a law must immediately follow that punishes those companies and individuals who employ or use or house illegal immigrants. The punishment must be extremely expensive and must be inforced. Fat chance that will ever happen, for the very people who want them imported or the flow stopped are the very people who are continually conned into vehemently opposing such a measure with the invasion-of-privacy-individual-rights propaganda, as if such a thing is still in tact. When it comes to immigration policy the majority of citizens in the U.S. are just suckers.

  9. theAmericanist says:

    Gonzalez doesn’t say WHY states stopped letting non-citizens vote after 1926, now does he?

    This is such a perfect example of how immigration policy gets screwed up: folks on both sides stop thinking clearly and start talking wildly.

    First: simply being here illegally is not grounds for ‘deportation’. That’s just a fact, and it wouldn’t change no matter what you did with the law. (Technical point: to be deported is a different legal category than ‘removal’ or ‘exclusion’. That’s not a distinction without a difference; it’s important.) Hell, just think practically: there are something like 360k folks who HAVE gotten deportation orders for things like rape and murder who are still in the country — we’re gonna put our deportation resources behind removing peaceful folks who want a say in how their kids are educated? Get a grip.

    Second — most immigrants I’ve ever heard of who are making a commitment to vote to help make the educational decisions that affect their kids are like Linus Torvalds (your neighbor, JJ), the guy who invented Linux. He got his green card PRECISELY so he could have a say in his (U.S. citizen) daughters’ education. (I interviewed him on the point a few years back.)

    Third — U.S. citizenship needs to be promoted far more than it needs to be protected. The reason most states stopped allowing voting to non-citizens by the 1920s, is because we had an Americanization movement to welcome newcomers and turn ’em into Americans. We don’t have that today — partly cuz of folks like Gonzalez who are allergic to clarity.

    Finally –you can’t make sense if you won’t make distinctions. The big distinction shouldn’t be between citizens and legal permanent residents, but between legal and illegal: yet that REQUIRES delivering on the immigration visas we promise. It means making choices — yes to nuclear families, no to siblings? Or yes to 2 million immigrants a year, and no to guest workers? Take your pick.

    But until we make sense by making real choices, the line between legal and illegal has to be blurred, for the simple reason that husbands and wives, parents and small children WILL sleep in the same country. Yet most folks want to talk about immigration in terms of econonomics, not family values — and that’s what kills the distinction between the folks we want (and are willing to welcome) and those we don’t (and are willing to deny).

    Face it: the key to immigration policy is to promptly let in the MILLIONS we want, to keep out the BILLIONS we don’t, and to throw out a few hundred thousand folks who shouldn’t be here.

    Who, by and large, are not parents who want to vote in school board elections.

    Ya wanna fight the bad stuff? Do good stuff.

  10. The National ID card has too many opponents on all sides of the political spectrum for it to have legs. First there is the government database misuse fear. Then there are those who worry about their guns and medical records. Then there is the Mark of the Beast crowd, those who have had their identity stolen, those who don’t like policemen, those who don’t like federal agents, and those who just want to be left alone. National ID just isn’t going to happen.

    And illegal immigration leads to lower prices for groceries and services nationwide while leading to many costs for border states. Overall, it’s probably a wash whether illegal immigration costs Americans jobs and money. Arizona is hit hard, but Iowa loves it. There just isn’t the need to deport them all. The principle is sound, but there are higher priorities than shipping away those who want to work hard at jobs few of us citizens are willing to do.

    Illegal immigrants pay a lot of taxes (sales, gas, payroll, and rent) and don’t get a lot of benefits. And they can’t vote. But that’s not tyranny, it’s non-citizenship.

  11. Mitchell says:

    Should people who are in the country with children attending schools here be allowed to vote in school board decisions? No. Besides, they have already “voted with their feet” by coming here. Should they be encouraged to become citizens? You betcha.
    Should we adopt national ID cards, or just deport em all as Tim from Texas suggests? Oh, gee, yes by all means we should pour all our resources into preventing people from coming here and working hard to get their little piece of the American dream that us citizens already enjoy. Tim, dude, you live here in Texas. You should know that you aren’t going to deport that many people. And, if you want to be honest, the jobs illegals take up are not the ones you want to do anyway, or else you’d be out mowing lawns or building houses, instead of waxing eloquent about how gullible everybody else is…..

  12. Tim from Texas says:

    I did not write nor did I suggest that I wanted anyone deported. I do think, however, it can be inferred that I ,like many, want to see some kind of control and system installed so we know who is here and how many are here, whoever they are.

    I also said it wouldn’t happen because of what I called the invasion-of-privacy-individual-rights propaganda.

    I also agree with jon’s lists of additional National ID boogie men. Now I call them boogie-men because the government, credit card issuers, banks, department stores, and many other entities know who you and I are, and we have certainly stood up to be counted time and time again.

    Yes, I am beyond doing the kind of work they do, but I did alot of dirty hard work when I was a young man and got paid fairly decent for it as I think they should. This would give them a better stake in the country, and more taxes and the like would be collected and expected from them.

    Now to speak of any fair immigration policy or an immigration policy which allows for an exact evaluation of all things involved without realizing that a National ID card is the only way to accomplish it, I do think is being gullible.

    Now there are people who think immigrants should be treated badly, misused, and abused, and not allowed a piece of the American dream, and they work hard at that goal, and there are people in this country and entering this country everyday, who are criminals of one sort of another, who we know nothing about, who do every kind of criminal act and they thank us hourly for that gullibility.

  13. Why should we allow ILLEGAL immigrants the right to vote? Why should we allow them anything other than basic human rights? I’m not advocating abuse of anyone but too much of what we call benefits goes to those who have done nothing to earn it. I’m obviously referring to those who are here illegally. Many of them receive many government aid, live here and earn money, pay no taxes other than the usual sales taxes, and now someone wants to give them a say in how our government is run without actually going through the process of becoming a citizen.

    What a joke.

  14. theAmericanist says:

    Jon is wrong, cuz he’s barking up the wrong tree. There is no need for a “National ID”. Just check every SSN that everybody already has to provide when they get a job. Dn’t worry much about the workers with bad #s — go after EMPLOYERS who hire lots of workers with bad #s.


    And Fred: the cruel joke is on YOU.

    At least a third to half of illegal residents are already eligible for legal immigration — that is, they’re LEGAL (so to speak) but prematurely HERE. (1.5 million nuclear families, 2.5 million siblings)

    In other words, Congress promises what it doesn’t deliver. There are arguments about that in all sorts of issues that concern priorities and trade-offs.

    But here is something stark and simple: Husbands and wives. Parents and kids.

    It is immoral and unAmerican, but even more than that, it is simply impractical, to provide a green card to Dad (cuz he works here) but pretend to make Mom and the kids wait for a MINIMUM of five years?

    How long would YOU sleep in a different country than your wife and kids?

    This is the cruel core of the confusion over “legal” and “illegal” in U.S. immigration law. Cuz until we get THAT one right — until we make distinctions between ‘legal’ and “illegal” that make sense and don’t outlaw or exile folks for obeying their marriage vows and obligations as parents, the rest is so much high grade hypocrisy.

  15. Tim from Texas says:

    You’re absolutely correct, Americanist, in much of what you have written here. However, comparing the SS card to a National ID is absurd. First the SS card and its number is a money collecting device. The treasury is not interested in anything other than collecting as much money as possible. As a matter of fact, employers in most cases can’t find out whether a SS number is valid or not. The Treasury doesn’t even care if its valid or not. In addition, of all the supposed legal citizen documents, it is the easiest to get and the easiest to forge.

  16. theAmericanist says:

    (sweet smile) For one thing, it’s the Social Security Administration, not the Treasury, that maintains the SSN database. For another, yes, you CAN check the validity of the #: the SSA does it all the time.

    It was a policy innovation of the Clinton administration to test whether electronically validating SSNs could be used to identify employers who hire large numbers of illegal workers. In a program run by Mark Reed, then the INS director for the middle of the country (Texas to Minnesota), it was easily established that this was 1) a way to eliminate the wasteful paperwork of the I-9 form that employers and new hires loathe, properly, and 2) that in fact it was a GREAT way to establish which employers had very high percentages of workers with bad SSNs — notably meat packers, some construction companies, etc.

    It’s pretty simple: if you as an individual give an employer a bad SSN, you HAVE a problem. But as a policy matter, YOU’RE not the problem. The problem is the meatpacking plant with 3,000 employees and 2,000 bad SSNs; the food service company with 60% bad #s, all of ’em avoiding fines because they point to those I-9 forms, all properly filled out with bogus (and unchecked) information.

    LOL — credit card companies routinely check far more data in nanoseconds, a million times a day, that checking an SSN requires — ONCE, for each hire. You want to stop the employment of illegal workers? FINE THE EMPLOYERS. Put a few HR guys in jail.

    (Smile — JJ may recall that when it counted, she was on the other side of the issue.)

    There are essentially just two motivations for illegal immigration. The first is family — Dad is here legally, permanently; so mom and the kids come illegally rather than wait the better part of a decade. That is wrong, to outlaw and exile families. The way to fix it is to give visas to mom and the kids, immediately. Anybody object?

    Why not reach family values where it COUNTS, willya? (1.5 million, give or take: it’s not an unlimited nor unreasonable # — just 90,000 new ones a year.)

    The second is jobs. This even affects family-based immigration (which is 2/3s of the legal total, anyway) because sibling-based immigration is primarily an employment network, anyway. (That’s another 2.5 million.)

    But the truism is, er, true: most illegal immigrtion is based on jobs. Employers want to hire cheap workers; workers want to take the jobs. (The market value for this is established by human smugglers — $30k a head from Korea.) So the way to stop illegal immigration is first, to provide the family based visas that are a moral imperative, and second, to deter the employment of illegal workers.

    You don’t do that by going after the illegal works; you can’t do it at the border alone, much less the cruelty of trying to deter folks at the clinic and in the classroom.

    You have to go after the EMPLOYERS. It’s easy to do — but it seems MUCH easier to sell cruel snake oil, like the idea that it’s wrong for parents to have a say in how their kids are educated if they’re foreign-born.

  17. Peter Ness says:

    So Pa is working in the US legally, but his wife and children can’t wait and are there illegally. But now Pa and wife complain they can’t vote for government officials without becoming citizens. What an insult to their host country. Become a citizen you can vote. Don’t become a citizen, you’re not allowed to vote – as it should be. Very straightforward. I say this as someone who has participated nearly every year for more than decade in the Green Card lottery in the hope that I may one day emigrate to the USA, become a citizen and vote. Letting non-citizens vote disenfranchises everybody but those who can’t commit or are criminals.

  18. Walter E. Wallis says:

    We need a conservative activist judge to enjoin the expenditure of any government money that encourages illegal acts, and making the persons who expend the money personably liable.

  19. Tim from Texas says:

    Well, Americanist,big huge sweet grin, the Treasury holds sway over SS Ad. for it collects the money and disburses it, and any entity or person that collects and disburses holds heavy advantage over the other. It’s just as the man who loudly proclaims he wears the pants in his household,but anyone with a sense of observation knows it’s the wife who’s holding the purse strings who does really. At any rate, whether the system has been improved and whether all SS numbers can be checked, it is inherent in the system that not much is done, for getting the money is the goal.

    Sure, raids and like maneuvers, where many illegals are arrested for a while and where the employers are spanked on the hand, are played out at timely political intervals, just like police in every major city and township round up prostitutes
    whenever it’s politically expedient and everyone knows how that plays out. The DEA makes a bust, finds a ton of cocaine, and they all stand over it as if they had just shot a 2000 pound rabid gorilla, when in reality it’s just a gnat. These raids and maneuvers by our goverments’ agencies are a good show on tv and they make for some good copy in the newspapers, but it’s just ludicrous, an empty show and downright mockery.

  20. Modern citizenship demonstrates nothing other than blind luck about where you were born; there’s no implicit commitment to the country (or the school) involved, so it’s a completely arbitrary standard. Better to have voters demonstrate a meaningful committment to the system, either by bringing their tax records to the voting booth or showing that their kids are enrolled.

  21. theAmericanist says:

    (smile) I know a bit about that lottery.

    Ness has a point, of course — I say again, citizenship needs to be promoted more than it needs to be protected.

    As a practical matter (immigration and citizenship is not a set of issues friendly to idealists), the most effective step would be to give green cards to mom and the kids as soon as Dad gets his, or more precisely, when he gets his green card and THEN gets married, the spouse gets a green card just that quickly. (We do this for citizens, but not for legal permanent residents: like a lot of distinctions between citizens and legal non-citizens, it’s stupid and doesn’t work.)

    I dunno as it makes much more than an abstract point, to say that “modern” citizenship doesn’t mean much except luck. How did it ever mean anything else? (grin) And, of course, there’s an answer: IMMIGRANTS become citizens by choice.

    Don’t tell me that’s not meaningful. Don’t tell Ness. It’s a glory of America that we invite folks (which is how legal immigrants get here, other than the lottery: individual Americans invite ’em), that THEY become US. This is rare — I couldn’t move to Japan and become Japanese anymore than I could climb a tree and become a pine cone.

    Besides, America INVENTED citizenship (there were no citizens anywhere at the time of the Founding), and if we have half-forgotten what it’s for, it’s high time we remembered.

    The principal obstacle to folks who care enough about their kids to want a say in how they’re educated, then, is the family backlogs I’m talking about (delivering what we promise), and the failure to fine employers (keeping out what we claim not to want).

    No offense, T from T, but you don’t know what you’re talking about and you’re negative about it, to boot: this CAN be done, quite easily. It’s guys like you who complain that it can’t be done when it isn’t done that ensures it never does get done — like I said, it’s so much more fun to be cruel then effective. If you won’t go after employers, then you’re stuck with people dying in the desert and this bullshit about denying health care, schooling or a say in how taxes are spent — and these folks DO pay taxes, ya know.

    But, just to muck up the example: Supposing we were weren’t talking about public schools? Should a private school refuse to let non-citizen parents serve on the board? Why?

    Hell, what if it was a condo? Is it legit for a condo board to rule that only U.S. citizens get to vote for who gets on the board, thus excluding legal permanent residents, diplomats, etc., who happen to own apartments in the complex?

    Same set of issues, folks: very practical ones, that require practical solutions. Bitching about non-citizen voting, just like promoting it, is an excuse not to fix what’s broken.

  22. “Should a private school refuse to let non-citizen parents serve on the board? Why?”

    First off, that’s apples and oranges. It makes no difference to me if someone at a private institution decides that an illegal alien is fit to serve on their board. If they’re working from that persons qualifications alone, that very well may be the case. Same goes for condo’s. I don’t care who they have on their board. Because it’s my prerogative to say “no, I won’t live there because I don’t like the idea of having non-citizens making decisions about how i live”

    But that doesn’t fly when you start talking about public schools? Why? Easy. Public schools are attached and associated with the government. They survive off taxpayers money. Not on the tuition paid by specific families to a private institution. As a taxpayer, i have ZERO say in how my money is spent in the public school system. If I don’t have kids in the schools I still pay taxes that support said public institution. Then you start to get into situations where people who don’t have anything to really gain (I.E. no kids in the school system), are having decisions made about the money they earned, by people who rightfully don’t even belong in the country. All of this being done, mind you, with the aura of authority from the government because it’s the public realm.

    I think the differences between the two would be pretty obvious.

  23. theAmericanist says:

    No, d-uh.

    The point isn’t to observe that they’re different (no kidding?), but that they’re the same: taking for granted that pesky observation that two different examples of the same thing are, um, DIFFERENT examples of the same thing.

    Sure, paying tuition to a private school or buying a condo and paying fees is voluntary in a way that paying taxes to support public schools is not. (Although I note again that a big chunk of California politics is precisely about folks who don’t like paying property taxes to educate other people’s kids: Prop 13.) But we’re talking about non-citizens ( a much bigger category than illegals, btw), and nobody is seriously arguing that these guys DON’T pay taxes, cuz they do.

    So that can’t be the distinction between citizens and non-citizens. But whether you pay IS, for private schools or condos. In those cases, what qualifies you as a ‘citizen’ and thus eligible to vote, is whether you pay. But in insisting that only citizens can vote, we’re talking about denying a say in how money is spent from people who are required to pay part of that money.

    I’ve always thought that the right to vote should be the single most important most important distinction of a citizen, which is why I’ve spent a considerable chunk of my career promoting it. But that isn’t an absolute thing, as the examples of private schools or condo boards proves.

    In a sense, those are CLUBS — and (speaking more precisely than ordinarily) what distinguishes a club from a community is that a club can choose its members, but a community cannot. A legal permanent resident buys the house next door, sends his (U.S. citizen) kids to the local school: You have nothing to say about it — they BELONG, just as much as you do.

    (grin) Welcome to America, the land of your birth.

    From 1790 through 1926, it was common for states to allow “free white persons” (the Federal standard) who had not yet become U.S. citizens to vote in local and state elections, on precisely the condo board theory: they were members, they paid taxes, they had a right — under state laws — to vote. The only reason they couldn’t vote in national elections is simply that the national law was different than the laws of Wyoming or Indiana.

    There’s no great principle there, unless you want to refight the Dred Scott decision that there is no meaningful national citizenship. States get to do this, so do local jurisdictions, the same way as private schools or condo boards.

    What IS a great principle is that American immigration is all about how “they” become “us”.

    One more time: non-citizen voting doesn’t solve anything, but neither will stopping it. FIX the immigration system, promote Americanization, and non-citizen voting in SF or Takoma Park will simply be a quaint footnote, the way it is now that John Adams hated the ALbert Gallatin (the first secretary of the treasury) cuz he was a foreigner.

    BUT — if we don’t fix the system (saying yes to the folks we want, and no to the ones we don’t), we’re gonna erode the meaning of citizenship just the way JJ fears: and faster than anybody expects.

    Bush’s guest worker deal is a much bigger threat than school board elections.

  24. Boo writes: “Better to have voters demonstrate a meaningful committment to the system, either by bringing their tax records to the voting booth or showing that their kids are enrolled.”

    Better still to demonstrate meaningful commitment by starting the naturalization process. Citizenship is not just an accident of birth, as Boo asserts

  25. Anonymous says:


    Boo is correct: The fact that you are a human and not a fish is just an accident of birth too!

  26. Sorry…forgot to ID myself.

  27. Mark Odell says:

    “You can’t have a growing number of residents in your jurisdictions that are not part of the body politic.”

    (Translation: “Our subjects think we’re irrelevant and are ignoring us! Oh no! Unless we can foster the illusion of consent by getting them to vote, we may not be able to perpetuate the ruse that we represent them any longer! “We’ve got to protect our phony-baloney jobs, gentlemen!””)

    jon wrote: Illegal immigrants pay a lot of taxes (sales, gas, payroll, and rent) and don’t get a lot of benefits. And they can’t vote. But that’s not tyranny, it’s non-citizenship.

    Are you familiar with the phrase “No taxation without representation”? (Lest there be any misunderstanding, this is arguing in favor of restricting taxation, not expanding voting, since taxation with representation ain’t so hot either.)

  28. speedwell says:

    My daddy was an immigrant from Hungary in ’56(legal; refugee status). One thing we kids were taught was that citizenship and civic duties (i.e. voting) are the two sides of the same coin and you can’t have one without the other. You can’t vote if you’re not a citizen–you aren’t a citizen unless you act like one.

    We do allow the kids of illegal immigrants to go to school. We do so because we consider it worse to have a bunch of ignorant slobs lying around in our gutters than to have a bunch of properly-indoctrinated slobs lying around in our gutters, I suppose. (Those who really want to learn and take part in this country usually do what it takes to get legit.)

    (clears throat) My POINT is that we citizens allow illegal immigrant children to go to our schools because we consider it convenient and desirable for ourselves. It is a privilege we extend to them and we could take it away for any reason or no reason.

  29. theAmericanist says:

    Mark sorta grotesquely mis-states the meaning of ‘no taxation without representation’, which actually meant that ‘population COMPELS representation’, the principle on which the Revolution was fought. (The colonists insisted that Magna Carta granted them the right to tax themselves, that as colonists they continued t enjoy the rights the Crown had granted the English. The Crown disagreed.)

    The real parallel with ‘no taxation without representation’ is the way Congressional seats are divided these days — because we haven’t added seats to the House since 1910, we keep taking ’em from NY and Massachussets (which continue to grow in population) and giving ’em to California and Arizona (which ahve grown faster).

    But a Congressional district in Mass or NY with 630k people in it will turn 210k votes in an election, while one in California with 560k people in it, will only turn 100k votes. We’re literally taking representation away from people who can and do vote, to give ‘representation’ to people who don’t — and can’t.

    Why don’t we FIX this, instead of complaining about folks who want a say in how their kids are educated.

  30. “Are you familiar with the phrase “No taxation without representation”? (Lest there be any misunderstanding, this is arguing in favor of restricting taxation, not expanding voting, since taxation with representation ain’t so hot either.)”–Mark Odell

    I like the current set-up, where to receive the benefits of citizenship, someone must become a citizen. Letting them work tax-free would put in place incentives against hiring citizens (think of your payroll tax, then realize that your employer pays the same amount to the government, and see how great foreigners would have it without taxes).

    Plus, those benefits were put in place by voters (via our elected officials obeying our will, sort of), so I see no good reason to stop letting foreigners who aren’t citizens subsidize our benefits. If they don’t like it, they can get their own crappy governments to set up social programs of their own. Of course, then they’d have to return home and vote. After all, unless they came from dictatorships like Cuba, they can probably vote in their home countries (yes, Cuba has some sort of elections, but I’m referring to elections that matter).

  31. Tim from Texas says:

    Dear Americanist:

    You infer what you want and what suits you, you ramble on incessantly, put words into my mouth, and attempt to belittle in order to bolster you’re ramblings. By the way, when you describe me incorrectly as you did above, I think you are describing yourself and don’t even know it.

    Moreover, all the while you’re quite boorish in your approach as well which is a big turn off. Have a nice day.

  32. theAmericanist says:

    Actually, Jon, there IS exactly that disincentive to acquiring legal permanent residency and it quite possibly is a significant drive behind at last some of the ‘let’s let non-citizens vote’ in SF and elsewhere.

    When somebody has a temporary visa, like an H-1B, their worldwide income is not subject to U.S. taxation. For most folks, this isn’t a big deal (I dunno about T from T, but MY worldwide income isn’t appreciably different from my U.S. income), but for a handful of the Silicon Valley elite, having an ‘indefinitely temporary’ visa allows them to live nad work and send their kids to school in the U.S. while protecting significant income from American taxes.

  33. When I wrote that modern citizenship doesn’t imply a committment to the country, I was thinking about citizens of Rome, who as citizens were often subject to higher taxes and military service. In the US, to become a citizen all you have to do is swear an oath or be born. Most people take that oath seriously but I’ve met naturalized citizens who don’t, and in any case it isn’t the same kind of committment as paying taxes or doing service.

    The previous post about taxation of worldwide income brings up perhaps the only point where US citizenship carries extra responsibilites. My understanding was that the IRS considers anyone physically present in the US to be a resident, subject to taxation on worldwide income while they’re here. The difference is that the H1 people can leave and not continue to report to the IRS for the rest of their lives. Green card holders and citizens have to continue reporting worldwide income forever, irrespective of where they live.

  34. Actually, I would agree to this with one twist — allow only the parents of public students to vote in school board elections. Imagine how much better our schools would be if the boards were accountable to the parents instead of to the employee unions

  35. Mark Odell says:

    theAmericanist wrote: Mark sorta grotesquely mis-states{snippage}

    I’m content to let the linked article speak for itself.

  36. tA – I’m not advocating the deportation or incarceration of illegal immigrants. That was not my point. My point simply was why should we grant rights to those who are not citizens of this country? There are many sides to the issue of illegal immigration and this article was about illegal immigrants voting in a local election. I don’t think that is a good idea. Just like I don’t think dead people should vote either. They are not citizens of this country.

    Now if we take this proposed policy to the extreme, then we could have people who say they want to be US citizens and allow them to vote. Granted, that is extreme, but we allow non-citizens to vote, who is to say what a non-citizen is? Now, it is open to interpretation.

    So, the joke becomes citizenry if we allow non-citizens the same rights as citizens.

  37. Anonymous says:

    “You can’t have a growing number of residents in your jurisdictions that are not part of the body politic. ”

    Why not !! That is an assumption that everyone has fulfilled the responsibilities that belong to the body politic.

  38. interested observer says:

    So, the illegal alien with the large family goes next door to his neighbor and says, “We’ve just voted to use your money to house us, feed us, pay our medical bills and provide us an education.”

    Give voting rights to illegal aliens and that is what you give them the right to do – without insuring that they benefit the community, in any way, or pay for its support.

    I agree with the many writers above who suggest deportation. We should close our borders!

  39. theAmericanist says:

    George Washington isn’t a citizen any more?

    Fred, that’s why I raised the f’r instance of private schools and condo boards. Basically, there are LOTS of instances in which non-citizens get to vote quite legitimately. To argue that THIS is one of ’em, that non-citizens shouldn’t be allowed to vote in, say, SF school board elections, it might be wise to explain why. Why is it legit for a non-citizen to vote for a condo board, but not for a public school board? It’s harder to draw that line on principle than you might think.

    You note that you don’t want illegal aliens deported or jailed, but that sorta begs the question what WOULD you do about ’em, if anything. (I want those whom we WANT here to get green cards, and those whom we DON’T, compelled to leave. I make the difference on family ties, specifically green card holding spouses. I’d enforce the law by fining and jailing employers who hire lots of illegal workers. Make sense?)

    But I strongly disagree with you on the idea that it’s okay to have lots of people living in the United States permanently, but NOT as citizens. We tried that model once (Indians, slavery), and it doesn’t work. There are folks who argue for a new model to replace the old Ellis Island ideal that directly linked immigration with citizenship, who think that we ought to have a “denizen” model rather than a citizenship one, but they’re just wrong. Either you wind up on your slippery slope — not cuz you’re eroding the meaning of citizenship, exactly, but because you have tens of millions of people who get to be, quite literally, second-class citizens instead of the real thing, or you wind up with the nation’s working stiffs without rights.

    Folks like Mark have evidently never thought about it — note how even as a citizen he is literally alienated from self-government, yet can’t speak to the point. That’s why I raised the actual meaning of ‘no taxation without representation’, regarding how after each of the last 3 Censuses we have taken representation away from the growing states in the Northeast, notably NY and Massachusetts, and given those seats in Congress to states in the Southwest, notably Arizona and California: basically, half as many VOTERS get a rep in Congress in AZ or CA as in NY or Mass.

    (grin) But Mark doesn’t like real issues.

    I’d be curious (I wonder if JJ knows) how much of a push this initiative for non-citizen voting is getting from H-1B visa holders who want to protect their worldwide income (mostly in India) from U.S. taxation, but who want a say in how their kids are educated in the fine public schools of Silicon Valley.

    Still, my bottom line is that citizenship needs to be promoted more than it needs to be protected. The big threat, Fred, isn’t that we will have too many non-citizens who are active in their local public schools, but that we will have ‘indefinitely temporary’ guest workers dominating both the top (H-1BS, L1s, etc., doing software and financial services) and the bottom (Bush’s braceros doing minimum wage jobs) of our economy. The way to fix that is to restore the Ellis Island model and make ’em citizens, not to let ’em vote without naturalizing.

  40. speedwell says:

    “Why is it legit for a non-citizen to vote for a condo board, but not for a public school board? It’s harder to draw that line on principle than you might think.”

    No, sweetie, it’s EASIER than YOU think.

    It’s legit for a non-citizen of the US to vote for a condo board, why? Because when he became a condo owner, he signed a contractual agreement in which he promised to abide by the rules and regulations of the condo owners’ association, pay his dues, and be a good neighbor. The association in return gave him the right to participate in the government of the condominium complex.

    Do you see where I’m going with this? As a condo owner, he is in every meaningful sense a citizen of his condo association. But if he refuses, in so many words, to enter into a contract of citizenship with the country he demands privileges from, he has no leg to stand on.

    Now as far as those born in this country are concerned, I consider them (us) citizens in name only until they earn their citizenship by doing, well, “citizenly” things. I have argued elsewhere that individuals who are civic liabilities (welfare, etc.) should temporarily lose their “right” to vote until they become productive again. You wouldn’t have a profitable business if you allowed the customers to set your prices and terms. You can’t have a society in which the non-contributors dictate their own entitlements. (I’ve been desperately poor before, thank you, and I feel shame about it, not pride.)

    But that’s a digression. We citizens collectively decide to provide services for non-citizens because in some way we feel we benefit from giving them some sort of chance, or from preventing diseases caused by hunger, homelessness, and improper sanitation, or because it would be impractical, even dangerous, in the present system to provide certain services to some (like police and fire) while leaving out others.

    That does not mean non-citizens have any right to these services, or any entitlement to them, let alone any say in their administration and distribution.

  41. tA – Please don’t try to interpret for yourself what I said. The reason I was not advocating deportation or incarceration was I did not feel that was the issue. I do have a position on that but I did not feel that it addressed the issue at hand – namely should illegals be permitted the right to vote?

    If you want to know my feelings about illegals it is this. If they are here legally – fine. If they are here illegally – deport them. I don’t give a rat’s patootie about family, siblings, and whatever else may apply. There are legal means for coming to this country and I believe that there is a need for immigration reform. But, I resent the fact that there are millions who came here and now want citizenship status just because they crossed the border illegally and found a job. The idea of checking SSNs is a joke. Most illegal workers are paid in cash and no one in the government can really prove that it happened.

    See – now I am completely off the topic! 🙂

  42. Walter E. Wallis says:

    And when the voting illegals become the majority and vote us citizens out in the street?

  43. theAmericanist says:

    (grin) Be warned, Speedwell — if this was a civics test, you just flunked.

    One of the other things I wanted to have immense fun with in public is the ECONOMICS of a new citizenship test. There are lots of things which people half-vaguely think oughta be part of citizenship, but ain’t.

    I know a guy (Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, writes a lot for the National Review) who only half-facetiously argues that we should ask prospective new citizens who Elvis was. If they don’t know, they don’t get to vote. (Personally, I prefer the INS guy in Boston who used to ask people about Martin Luther King, Jr., and really DID flunk folks who didn’t know who he was.)

    That’s why I thought it’d be fun to ask an economics question or two on the natz test.

    The fact is, there is no economic component to citizenship. Immigrants are required not to become a public charge, which is to say that until such time as they have paid enough in taxes to qualify for Social Security and Medicare, their sponsors (to oversimplify a bit, all legal “immigrants” have sponsors) must pay their way. And of course legal permanent residents (unlike the ‘indefinitely temporary’) must, like citizens, pay taxes on worldwide income.

    But — do you have to work to be a citizen? Nope. No more than you have to be rich, or successful, or even literate. Why should you?

    Ya see, Speed, you misunderstand the nature of the relationship between the government and “We, the People”. They don’t grant us rights. We’re born with ’em. We don’t have to earn jack to claim right from the government. The government only exists to protect those rights, and derives only its just powers from our consent.

    I never gave the government the right to deny me my say at the ballot box if I’m unemployed, or stupid, or frivolous — and I sure as hell never gave that to YOU. More precisely, “We, the People” never granted the government that authority — and a damned good thing, too.

    That’s not a way in which a non-citizen who owns a unit getting to vote for the condo board is LIKE a citizen who gets to vote, but rather a way in which that is UNLIKE real citizenship. Stop paying the bills, and you lose your condo voting rights (and, eventually, the condo).

    The Supreme Court has said, flat out, that the U.S. government “has no power to remove citizenship lawfully acquired.” (Afroyim vs. Rusk, 1967) None.

    So “all persons born or naturalized in the United Stats are citizens of the United States and of the states in which they reside…”, sayeth the 14th amendment, and the same amendment’s equal protection provides no distinctions between naturalized and born citizens.

    That means you can’t impose any obligations on naturalized citizens after they swear the Oath that you don’t impose on born citizens — and you can’t impose the ones you talk about, on those of us born here.

    The argument for real immigration reform doesn’t revolve around that dire threat to America, foreign-born parents who care about their kids schooling, but rather on the immoral, and unAmerican, but most important of all, utterly IMPRACTICAL ways immigration law is supposed to work.

    If somebody is here illegally, they should be somebody we don’t want here — right? But when something like 5 MILLION PEOPLE who are here illegally are people we DO want here — which we know, cuz they are all eligible for legal visas cuz of citizen siblings or green card spouses — then it is just stoooopid to outlaw or exile them cuz they obey their marriage vows and obligations as parents instead of immigration law – -which is more exceptions than rules, anyway.

    It’s wrong. It’s unAmerican. But most of all, it doesn’t work: they show up anyway. You may be willing (but I doubt it) to take an illegal alien mom and the oldest kid away from a green card dad and the two citizen toddlers: but I’m not. Perhaps we have different values. But I’m betting — hell, I can prove it, look at why we DON’T remove these folks — that my values are more like America’s in this instance.

    So why not reform the law so it reflects American values, like family and earning your way?

    Then when we have to defend the sacredness of citizenship and voting, we might be able to say WHY in a way that is positive and effective, instead of negative and silly.

  44. two words: Literacy tests…..(english, of course!)

  45. speedwell says:

    Go teach your grandmother to suck eggs, so-called “Americanist.” I’m talking about what’s right, not merely about what’s legal. Unearned citizenship is a gift, not a right. Earned citizenship is property.

    Inalienable rights do not include the “right” to freely use or dispose of property that you do not own. People can demand the privileges of citizenship until they’re blue in the face, but the fact remains that what they’re demanding does not in fact belong to them. If they wish to obtain the goods, services, or other privileges they desire, they have to trade value for them. If they don’t have the ability to pay the price, too damn bad for them! (They’re not entitled to ask the government to do their stealing for them, either.)

    I’ll ask you another question, Mr. Cheshire Cat. Why do you suppose that some people refuse to become citizens? What do you suppose their motive could be? Why in hell should citizens support people who do not themselves even support the principles held in common by those who do agree to be citizens?

  46. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Some judge decided a long time ago that the sponsership obligation was a moral, not a legal obligation. Very soon afterwards, whole families began showing up and going directly on some form of dole.

  47. theAmericanist says:

    (big smile) As it happens, I sat through several hearings on the subject of just why folks who are eligible do not choose to naturalize.

    It’s like any other human action — basic motivations are moral, carnal, or venal. There aren’t a lot of carnal reasons to become a citizen that aren’t already available to a legal permanent resident — this is a nice country, good food (and a variety of it), etc. But a green card holder gets all of that, without naturalizing. So that’s not much of a motivator either way.

    The venal reasons are generally limited to the one I describe, and applies to getting a green card, not to becoming a citizen.

    The moral one is tougher. The only requirements for naturalization (beyond 5 years of permanent residency and no moral turpitude, which basically means no convictions for prostitution) are to demonstrate a knowldge of the “history, form and principles of the U.S. government,” and to swear the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance. (Of which I once wrote a history, if anybody cares.)

    Some folks choose not to become U.S. citizens even though they live here legally for decades because they will NOT renounce their nation of birth — like, for many years, recently naturalized Peter Jennings, the ABC news anchor. (He was a Canadian citizen. He got his job in the U.S. news biz cuz his Dad was sorta the Walter Cronkite of Canada, so he came south so nobody would think he got ahead on Dad’s merits.)

    So there are lots of individual reasons why folks don’t become U.S. citizens — they’re personal, not generally that political.

  48. “Earned citizenship is property.”

    Really? Can it be bought and sold? Divided among multiple parties? Inherited, either by bequest or intestacy? Held in trust for the benefit of another? Used to secure a debt? Attached to enforce a judgment? Can someone have a future interest in citizenship, which is itself alienable and devisable?

    Since the answer to all of those are no, it doesn’t sound like property to me.

  49. Mark Odell says:

    theAmericanist wrote: Folks like Mark have evidently never thought about it — note how even as a citizen he is literally alienated from self-government, yet can’t speak to the point. […] (grin) But Mark doesn’t like real issues.

    Bzzzzzzt! Personal Attack; so sorry; try again, troll.

  50. Peter Ness says:

    Earned citizenship is indeed a property – one that you can mortage. Once you have acquired it, you can then use it to sponsor your family, or someone you deem essential to the running of your business and that you are unable to acquire locally and so on. Travel overseas or back to your hostile birth nation and it (U.S. citizenship) can be used to secure your freedom as Chinese democracy advocates have found out. Those born in a foreign country to a parent who is a U.S. citizen have a right to it and to its protections and obligations. In short, it’s the worlds’ most valuable property, which is why so many want to become American citizens.

  51. theAmericanist says:

    That’s sort of essentially a semantic distinction, between citizenship being “a property”, like “a characteristic”, which of course it is, and citizenship itself being “property”. Being a television-owning household is a characteristic, like being a U.S. citizen household, but citizenship is not a possession the way a TV is.

    The more important distinction is simply that U.S. citizenship legitimately acquired, i.e., by birth or naturalization, cannot be taken away by the government. This is not a small thing.

    The U.S. government can take away a person’s life, liberty or property after ‘due process of law’. That is, you knock off a 7-11, and the gummint can put you in prison whether you agree, or not.

    But the U.S. government has no power to take away your citizenship, so long as you acquired it lawfully. This is a HUGE difference between being a citizen and being a subject – and, as it happens, it is one the Bush administration is determined to challenge.

    LOL — and, um, Mark: you wrote “arguing in favor of restricting taxation, not expanding voting, since taxation with representation ain’t so hot either..” I merely noted that this misrepresented the meaning of the phrase, and that it illustrates quite literally that you’re alienated from self-government, a remarkable thing in a conversation about citizenship.

    That’s not a personal attack in the way calling somebody a ‘troll’ is: it’s on point, and accurate.

    (smile) Or isn’t that clear to you?

  52. You know what?

    There are tons of parents who pay for their kids to go to out-of-state colleges. They are paying money to that other state and yet have no ability to vote for what the state does with it, should those kids go to a state school.

    That’s how it is. If you want a vote, go to the state school of the state you’re in. If you want to vote in the US, become a citizen already!

  53. Mark Odell says:

    That’s not a personal attack in the way calling somebody a ‘troll’ is

    By its fruit the tree is known.

  54. Mark Odell says:

    Once again, I’m content to presuppose that the readers of this blog are intelligent enough to decide for themselves who it is that’s calling things by their right names, and who it is that’s really doing the name-calling.

  55. Mark Odell says:

    Sorry; that should have been “By its fruit the tree is known.”

    Some observations on theAmericanist’s style of argumentation:

    – It begins with assertions unsupported by any cited sources (books, articles, hyperlinks, scholarly papers, etc.).

    – After it has provoked the desired opposition, then it continues to yet more unsupported assertions with the addition of personal attacks (sarcasm, insults, snide remarks, name-calling, arrogant condescension) on the opponents.

    – Only near the very end, after much slanging back-and-forth to the point where everyone’s polarized & exhausted, finally we see some few references (obscure tomes for the most part) dragged out as though grudgingly — but the personal attacks continue.

    Sorry to disappoint anybody, but the evidence is before us: theAmericanist is purely and simply a troll (albeit very-articulate, clever, glib, possessed of a large vocabulary, and skilled at: picking fights; hijacking comment threads; and then spewing dense, plausible-sounding clouds of verbal sepia to simulate argument — but a troll nonetheless).

    If tA would only:
    (1) buttress his cocksure-sounding but unsupported assertions with citations first (IOW emulate Liz’s example in detail); and
    (2) spare us the personal attacks, appeals-to-authority, red herrings, and straw men (which only weaken his argument, if he but knew it);
    . . . then, maybe, I’ll be impressed and mod his comments up higher than (-1,Troll).

    All this is by way of saying: Don’t Feed The Trolls. (This is a blog comment thread, not a court of law, and the principle that “unrebutted statements are accepted as fact” does not apply here.)

  56. joanne cottone says:

    Non-citizens consist of many types of people. Diplomats, illegals, vacationers, students, and workers here for a short time. These people don’t have any business making decisions about how our country runs. These are people who are nationals from another country. They haven’t made any oath of loyalty. It is purely by our generousity that they are allowed to be here in the first place.

    The illegal aliens should appreciate the facts that they are allowed to send their children to public schools and can benefit from other social services that are given to them on the basis of low income requirements. The arguement that they pay sales tax is stupid. Diplimats and visitors don’t have to pay them though. Illegals who claim they pay taxes because of the sales taxes forget that citizens pay sales tax, FICA, state, local, and Federal income taxes that provide for the services they receive. If a citizen doesn’t pay their income taxes, they can have all of their possessions taken away and go to jail, and if they say that they pay sales taxes they would get laughed out of court.
    Illegals are also committing a felony when they cross the border with out permission, and we don’t allow American citizens with felonies to vote so why should they be allowed to vote if they are federal felons? The fact that people are living in this country doesn’t give them the right to demand anything. If they want to have their say in what goes on in this country, then they have to go that extra mile and become citizens of this country. If non citizens want to be treated like citizens with all of the benefits that come with it, then they should be held to the same rules and responsibilities that comes with being a citizen. If a citizen has to pay income taxes and the IRS can go back 10 years in an audit, then the non-citizens should be held to the same standard.

    Voting is very important and just because our federal government has ignored the fact that millions of illegal aliens are living here doesn’t mean that the citizens have to give them a voice in law making, because in some counties, these people’s wishes could take presidence over citizen votes. The only thing that non citizens who are given free education should have to say around election time is thank you.


  1. End San Francisco Parochialism Now!

    Joanne Jacobs discusses a movement afoot in San Francisco (where else?) to allow non-citizen parents of public school students (including illegal aliens) to vote in school elections. But this seems awfully short-sighted and parochial, even Bay-centric….