City | 2:49 am | December 17, 2011 | By Nick Defiesta

DeStefano pushes voting rights for illegal immigrants

Mayor John DeStefano Jr. is proposing the city of New Haven give illegal immigrants the right to vote in municipal elections.
Mayor John DeStefano Jr. is proposing the city of New Haven give illegal immigrants the right to vote in municipal elections. Photo by James Lu.

Mayor John DeStefano Jr. is pushing to give voting rights to illegal immigrants.

While speaking to the New Haven Independent following a Tuesday press conference, DeStefano said he plans to push the state for a “resident voting rights” law that would allow all New Haven residents, regardless of immigration status, to vote in municipal elections. DeStefano said he would raise the issue during next year’s session of the state legislature, which would need to approve the proposal.

“[The bill is about] how you define community, and how you define responsibility in community,” DeStefano told the Independent.

Under DeStefano’s proposal, all New Haven residents would be allowed to vote in local elections if they can prove their residency and provide identification. Several communities have already implemented similar laws — non-citizens can vote in municipal elections in six Maryland communities and in school board elections in Chicago. In Cambridge, Mass., the city council passed a measure allowing noncitizens to vote to vote in municipal elections, but the Massachusetts state legislature has not given the requisite approval to the Cambridge plan. In order to see his proposal become reality, DeStefano will also need support at the state level — the New Haven Register reported that the proposal might require a constitutional amendment.

At a Friday press conference in Hartford, Gov. Dannel Malloy he does not support the proposal.

“I’m doing my best to honor a willingness to hear other ideas, but nothing I’ve read or heard thus far would convince me to support such a law,” he said. “But I don’t close the door completely.”

Meanwhile, State Rep. Juan Candelaria, who represents New Haven, came out in support of the idea Tuesday. While he said he was uncertain about its legality, Candelaria said he believes the plan makes sense for New Haven residents.

It is not the first time DeStefano has taken a controversial stance on immigration — in 2007, his administration began issuing the Elm City Resident Card, a form of identification designed to help illegal immigrants open bank accounts and use city resources. In September, he called the card his proudest accomplishment as mayor.

“We did an important thing in recognizing that communities are defined by character and values, not just by birth certificates,” he said.

Next year’s state legislative session, during which DeStefano plans to push his voting rights plan, will begin in February.

Comments