San Jose will wait until fall to review extending voting rights to non-citizen residents, effectively shutting down any chance for the plan to come before voters this year.
The Rules and Open Government Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to set a study session on the voting rights proposal in September after more than 30 residents urged the city to reschedule it to this month. Residents hoped the city could discuss the plan before the Aug. 12 deadline for a ballot measure to qualify for the November election.
Councilmember Raul Peralez asked city officials to find a sooner date, but it’s likely to be at the end of August.
“I have no interest, personally, in delaying this study session as I’ve already expressed my support and my interest in this item,” Peralez said. “But it’s not up to just me or one of us. Certainly there is a process here.”
The City Council voted in January to explore giving all residents the right to vote in local elections—regardless of immigration status. The proposal, introduced by Councilmembers Magdalena Carrasco and Sylvia Arenas, has drawn support from a number of local grassroots organizations.
City officials tried to schedule a study session in April and May, but those plans unraveled due to scheduling conflicts, City Clerk Toni Taber said. The city is booked up in June due to its budget process, and the City Council doesn’t meet during July.
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A coalition of South Bay immigrant advocacy groups said a September study session is too late. The group claims the city is attempting to delay the process and prevent the initiative from meeting the August deadline to put it on the ballot. Missing the deadline means the next time San Jose can put this plan to voters is 2024, organizers said.
The coalition is made up of SOMOS Mayfair, Vecinos Activos, Amigos de Guadalupe, Grupo De Justicia Migratoria, Si Se Puede Collective, Sacred Heart and others. Some members shared their frustrations at the meeting.
“I am very upset about the situation because you’ve been pushing back the study (session) that would allow us to vote,” said San Jose resident Celia Alvarez. “There are excuses after excuses and that is not an appropriate way to handle this.”
The group has hosted a number of sessions and educated residents on the plan. Organizers said the city’s study session will bring more attention and understanding to the issue.
“If we educate the community, we’re gonna get the support,” Misryan Mendoza, an organizer with Amigos de Guadalupe, told thecupertinodigest.com. “That’s why we push for these politicians to give us the opportunity to study this.”
Mendoza said he’s disappointed in the decision, but the coalition will continue to fight for the initiative.
The coalition rallied in front of City Hall Tuesday evening, where 30 people gathered and spoke in support of the plan. Many said non-citizen residents, including green card and U.S. visa holders, DACA recipients and undocumented immigrants, contribute significantly to the city. Roughly 40% of San Jose residents were born outside the United States, according to census data.
“Expanding the voting rights will have a positive impact on our communities,” community organizer Gabriel Manrique said. “It is unfair to tax residents and yet they do have limited representation and limited power in our society.”
Councilmember Dev Davis, who casted the lone vote opposing the proposal in January, said extending voting rights to non-citizens would cost the city significantly—as San Jose would have to conduct its own election under the proposal. Davis also worries non-citizen residents might accidentally vote in other elections, such as the county’s races, and get disqualified from becoming a citizen.
“Administrative errors happen all the time when we’re not in sync with the rest of the county, the state and the United States,” Davis told thecupertinodigest.com. “I don’t want to put anyone’s potential future citizenship at risk because of a potential administrative error.”
The plan has also drawn opposition from residents, including those who went through the naturalization process to become U.S. citizens.
“(Obtaining) citizenship will enable residents to become informed voters while deciding on issues that enabled them to become residents of this country in the first place,” resident Maryam Pirayo wrote in an email opposing the proposal, adding she was an immigrant who became a U.S. citizen. “Please vote no on this (plan).”
Contact Tran Nguyen at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.
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