NEW YORK - New York City, long a beacon for immigrants, is on the cusp of becoming the largest places in the country to give noncitizens the right to vote in local elections.
Legally documented, voting-age noncitizens comprise nearly one in nine of the city's 7 million voting-age inhabitants. Under a bill nearing approval, some 800,000 noncitizens would be allowed to cast ballots in elections to pick the mayor, City Council members and other municipal officeholders.
Noncitizens still wouldn't be able to vote for president or members of Congress in federal races, or in the state elections that pick the governor, judges and legislators.
Little stands in the way of the effort becoming law. The measure has broad support within the City Council, which is expected to ratify the proposal Thursday. Mayor Bill de Blasio has raised concerns about the wisdom and legality of the legislation, but said he won't veto it.
The law would give an electoral voice to the many New Yorkers who love the city and have made it their permanent home, but can’t easily become U.S. citizens or would rather remain citizens of their home nations for various reasons.
It would also cover "Dreamers" like Eva Santos, 32, who was brought to the U.S. by her parents at age 11 as an unauthorized immigrant, but wasn't able to vote like her friends or go to college when she turned 18.
"It was really hard for me to see how my other friends were able to make decisions for their future, and I couldn’t," said Santos, now a community organizer.
More than a dozen communities across the United States currently allow noncitizens to vote, including 11 towns in Maryland and two in Vermont.