Unless a judge intervenes, New York City will become the first major U.S. city to grant widespread municipal voting rights to noncitizens. Under legislation that became law on Sunday, more than 800,000 noncitizens and "Dreamers"* will have access to the ballot box – and could vote in NYC's municipal elections as early as next year. The city council approved the legislation a month ago, and Mayor Eric Adams allowed it to automatically kick in when the 30-day limit to take action expired.
Opponents have vowed to challenge the new law, which was lauded by a former councilmember who argued that it "build[s] a stronger democracy when we include the voices of immigrants."
American Family News spoke to Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). He says when put in context, that particular voting bloc could have a significant impact in determining the future direction of The Big Apple.
"In this most recent mayoral election just this past November, there were 1.1 million votes cast," he notes, "which means that the noncitizens who are eligible to vote would be a very significant chunk of the electorate in New York City."
And Mehlman argues that this move further dilutes the whole concept of citizenship.
"New York City is ceding the authority that our Founders fought for to people who are citizens of other countries," he exclaims. "And if you look at the way New York City is being run, [it's clear] people are unhappy generally – you are seeing a mass exodus.
"And yet they persist in these self-destructive plans, including now allowing citizens of other countries to determine how things are run in New York City."
An implementation plan for the new law is scheduled to be in place by July, including provisions for separate ballots for municipal races. Noncitizens still won't be able to vote for president or members of Congress in federal races, or in the state elections that pick the governor, judges, and legislators.
According to The Associated Press, some states – including Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, and Florida – have adopted rules that would preempt any attempts to pass laws like the one in New York City.
* Dreamers are young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children who would benefit from the never-passed DREAM Act or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows them to remain in the country if they meet certain criteria.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.