Last week, College Park’s city council weighed a plan that would have made their city the largest in Maryland to grant illegal immigrants voting rights in municipal elections. While the plan did not receive the majority vote it needed to pass, the council’s initiative sparked a national debate on whether or not non-citizens should be allowed to vote.
One of the bigger issues on the matter is centered on a flaw in the proposal’s design. The way it is designed permits non-citizen voting by blurring distinctive lines between legal permanent residents and undocumented immigrants. Towns like Hyattsville, Mount Rainier, and Takoma Park, Maryland have adopted this same flawed design.
Patrick Paschall, a former member of the Hyattsville council who championed the legislation there, claimed that it was intentionally made to not question citizenship status. According to Paschall, if the proposal does not question citizenship status, what is the point of being a citizen?
What does it mean to be an American citizen if people can vote regardless of their citizenship status? How would it help you at all to be an American citizen in towns like College Park and Mount Rainier? Does having an American citizenship have any meaning in these towns?
These questions are important because American citizens get to vote and decide what shape the government takes. Voting is a key privilege of citizenship, making it a topic that cannot be disregarded when discussing the choice of multiple towns in Maryland to implement non-citizen voting rights.
Erasing the distinction between legal permanent residents and illegal immigrants undermines the importance of voting. Being an American citizen will be the same as being a citizen in the country an illegal immigrant has come from.
This is a very dangerous game to play because it undermines the power of citizenship by diluting their voting power. This could adversely effect how the United States is governed.
Julio Murillo, a policy analyst with the Immigration Advocacy Group, CASA, claims that opening up elections to non-citizens celebrates diversity; however, there are other ways to make non-documented immigrants feel welcomed while celebrating diversity without undermining citizenship powers.
The way to make non-documented immigrants feel welcomed without blurring distinctions between citizens and non-citizens is simple. We accomplish this by adhering to the system that has been around for decades: citizenship application processes.
Ultimately, I predict that this is just the start to a national conversation on the issue. College Park and other towns have stirred the pot for an upcoming debate between the federal government and state governments.
Since the two differ when it comes to immigration, it is a matter of time before the federal government snaps the tension between its own power and the power delegated to the states on the issue of voting rights.