Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Voting Rights

This morning on Weekday, Steve Scher (another strangely spelled name; perhaps that's a requirement in radio?) was interviewing guests regarding Hispanic Week in the State Legislature. The speakers were discussing the things that prevent Latinos from voting in Eastern Washington, and among the items in their list were "citizenship requirements". Seriously! I was in shock that anyone could, with a straight face, say that the fact that voters must be citizens is a legitimate problem. How could they possibly question the right to vote as something that comes with being a citizen? However, my next thought was - if people pay taxes, shouldn't they have some say in what the local government does, even if they don't have citizenship? I don't know what the right answer is. Immigration has become such a political hot topic and no one has a complete solution, especially me, but there are a few things I believe in strongly:

(1) All people should be treated with dignity. Someone being an illegal immigrant does not give anyone a right to abuse them.
(2) Other countries should not be allowed to use the US as a dumping ground for their least desireable citizens by legitimizing or encouraging illegal immigration
(3) Any system that allows illegal immigrants to have a path to legal residency or citizenship must include an even easier path to allow legal immigrants that right. I have several friends here on TN visas who have no path to citizenship without getting employers to move them to an H1-B visa, which is fair enough unless folks who don't follow the rules and come here illegally are given that right.
(4) In general, the melting pot is not such a bad idea - immigrants to the US (like myself, I should add) should be those who not only want to come here for financial reasons but should want to adapt to the culture in the US while bringing in the things that make their culture special, not re-create their culture completely here.
(5) There are probably a few more here, but I haven't fully formed them yet.

Just another reason why listening to NPR in the morning is a good way to get your brain flowing.


Anonymous said...

Funny how it comes down to taxes... something about American history, perhaps? Seriously, though, I think that you should have to have the responsibilites of a citizen in order to have the right to vote - responsibilities like serving on a jury, for instance ;)

SabraGirl said...

I've been racking my brain but I can't come up with a single other responsibility of citizenship other than voting, and for men registering for a draft that likely won't ever happen. I think there's something wrong with that.

Anonymous said...

Funny that you should comment on this one since it struck me when I heard it as well. My feeling is that you should not be allowed to vote unless you are a citizen. Period. However, I think the path to citizenship is quite ridiculous, and so is our bureaucratic treatment of immigration issues.

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting topic...I myself have pondered what my rights should be as a legal non-permanent alien resident on the path to legal permanent alien residency (what a mouth full huh?).

Take for example the Alaska way viaduct. It kills me that I've lived in seattle for almost 2 years, pay more taxes then everyone around me, yet have absolutely no right to have my opinion expressed on such a key issue that will ultimately affect me.

The EU charter of free movement of citizens states that an EU national living in another EU country of which they are not a national of, has the right to vote in european parliamentary elections and any local elections. They may not vote in parliamentary elections at the federal level.

This in my mind is fair. It provides the perfect balance between having a say in the direction my community is heading in, vs. deciding the direction of the entire nation, which I wholeheartedly agree with you is the greatest privilege citizenship provides.

Here's a thought: What would a system look like that had free movement of people within NAFTA? I'm not entirely sure, but I have a feeling it would drop the number of illegal immigrants that come to the United States (as migrant workers could cross the border into the US to work and then return to Mexico), provide equal rights for millions of people who bear none today, and expand the economies of all three nations.

Logic dictates that the path of the future is contained within national blocks or 'pacts' that strengthen a region to build a stronger economical infrastructure and nurture cooperation (i.e. the EU). In 200 years, can someone honestly say that the concept of nation states will still exist? (OK I have to stop before I start talking about one world government)

It sucks that the US is going in the opposite direction - always pushing themselves away from the rest of the world (just ask a national of a non-western government the pain of getting a visitor visa). I'm sure if the US could find a way to launch itself into space it would. But when has isolation ever proved to be successful?