In a controversy-sparking move, Boston, a self-proclaimed sanctuary city, is weighing a resolution to allow immigrants with "legal status" to vote in local elections. This proposal, which has reportedly gained the backing of the majority of Boston city councilors, was a central topic in a council meeting last week.
The resolution, introduced by Councilor Kendra Lara, would allow immigrants who have "worked, sacrificed, and invested in their neighborhoods," to provide these residents a voice in local governance, despite their lack of citizenship.
The Boston debate echoes a similar policy shift in Takoma Park, Maryland, where city clerk Jessie Carpenter gave Boston lawmakers insights from her experience. Takoma Park, which has allowed noncitizens to vote for 30 years "regardless of their legal status."
In Takoma Park, "nearly one-third of the residents are foreign-born," according to Fox News, which adds that a significant portion of registered noncitizen voters actively engage in the electoral process.
Boston, with a population exceeding 650,000, presents a stark contrast to the much smaller town of 17,000, suggesting that the number of potential immigrant voters could be significantly higher. According to Carpenter, immigrant voters are only required to show proof of identity and city residency, without any inquiry into their legal status.
Elections Commissioner Eneida Tavares said a similar policy change could prove logistically challenging for the much larger city of Boston, telling city councilors Tuesday that the Boston Election Department would need to evaluate whether it had the capabilities to maintain two separate databases "without causing any confusion."
"Our preferred method would be to use the secretary of state’s database because it’s just one place where we can house everything," Tavares said. "It’s easier to update voting, voter information, give voter history to voters and everything of that nature."
Tavares also told councilors that the city would likely not be able to keep an individual’s immigration status private if their public voting information were requested for a court proceeding. -Fox News
Amidst these discussions, concerns were raised about the possibility of noncitizens mistakenly voting in state or federal elections, which could jeopardize their path to citizenship. City Councilor Liz Breadon underscored the potential risks, stressing the need to avoid any errors that might impact an immigrant's journey towards citizenship.
The broader context of this proposal is Massachusetts' struggle with the recent influx of migrants from the southern border. Democratic Gov. Maura Healey has declared a state of emergency, with the National Guard activated to manage the crisis. FEMA also granted the city $1.9 million over the summer to help migrants with shelter and transportation.
Meanwhile, House Democrats in the Massachusetts state legislature recently pushed a $2.8 billion spending bill, allocating substantial funds to shelter vulnerable families, including migrants. This bill comes as the state’s emergency shelters face increasing pressure from a surge in migrant and homeless families.
Republicans in the state have voiced strong opposition, criticizing the lack of formal debate on the bill and challenging the actions of the Democratic majority as a "one-party monopoly."