Should undocumented immigrants be allowed to vote?
- According to FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform), in 2019, approximately 14 million undocumented immigrants were living in the US.
- In 2016, 61.4% of voting-age citizens reported voting in the presidential election.
- The only democratic countries that do not require voter identification are the US and the United Kingdom.
- In July of 2020, President Trump signed a memorandum that “would prevent migrants who are in the United States illegally from being counted when US congressional voting districts are next redrawn.”
By definition, undocumented immigrants have come to the United States unlawfully and are thus criminals before they are citizens. Just as felons often lose the right to vote either temporarily or permanently, undocumented immigrants should not be rewarded with this right, nor are they legally given it.
For various reasons, someone in the country illegally has obviously not successfully become a US citizen--or they have no desire to become one. This demonstrates their likely low level of investment in the US as their permanent home, and as such, they may not be inclined to take voting seriously out of consideration for the country’s future. Addressing the argument that those on the path to citizenship ought to have a say in what happens in their communities, there exist “a handful of towns that allow noncitizens, including illegal aliens, to vote in local contests such as school board and municipal elections.”
Instances of illegal immigrants being granted the right to vote have occurred in the past--though often by mistake--such as when applying for a “driver’s license or state ID card.” Such was the case following the National Voter Registration Act, which linked voter registration to local motor vehicle departments. A noncitizen could have easily made the mistake to register, especially if there was a language barrier.
Illegal aliens already receive many resources, such as health care, education, and government funding--even when some may not be paying taxes. While the list is controversial enough, voting need not be included in it. It is especially imperative during a pivotal election year that this type of situation no longer happens.
Undocumented immigrants absolutely should be allowed to vote because all adults living within a democracy should have that categorical right. If a government with total power over the life and death of its populace does not recognize the basic civil rights of every one of its residents, then that government is fundamentally anti-democratic and almost certain to mistreat those who are disenfranchised very cruelly. Undocumented immigrants are affected by government decisions on healthcare, policing, and education just as much as--if not more than--citizens.
Undocumented immigrants are already members of communities across the country. They already live and work and attend school and create art and shop and rent and otherwise participate in every aspect of American social, cultural, and economic life. Immigrants, documented and otherwise, have contributed a disproportionate part of the labor keeping our society running for the past two centuries. Agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and construction--in other words, the basic infrastructure of the economy--all employ a larger proportion of undocumented immigrants than native-born workers.
American policy has impoverished Latin American workers, both in America and abroad, for decades, but especially since NAFTA decimated the Mexican agricultural economy and forced it to rely on imports from America, thereby making millions of Mexican farmers destitute. The federal government has done nothing to punish the companies dependent on undocumented labor, only brutally repressing (and, now, enacting questionable health measures against) the vulnerable migrants themselves.
The right to vote is the barest prerequisite for protection against fascism, and its denial has consequences. Assuredly, the voices of those who live and work here deserve to be heard and represented in the voting booth.