Caribbean Immigrants in NYC Win Right to Vote in Municipal Elections

Florida voting
In this Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, file photo, Johnea Barlow casts her ballot at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, on Election Day in Louisville, Ky. The 2020 presidential election had all the makings of a looming disaster: fears of Russian meddling, violence at the polls, voter intimidation and poll workers fleeing their posts over the coronavirus. But the election was largely smooth, in large part because 107 million voters that cast their ballots early and took the pressure off Election Day operations. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

New York City Council has passed legislation expanding the right to vote in municipal elections to an estimated 900,000 non-citizen New Yorkers, including Caribbean nationals, with legal permanent residence status or other valid work authorization.

The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for more than 200 immigration groups in the New York State, said it collaborated, for years, with other groups and allies, such as the Our City, Our Vote Coalition (OCOV), and United Neighborhood Houses (UNH), in ensuring the eventual passage of the historic measure.

NYIC said Thursday’s vote, “the most significant expansion of New York City’s democracy in over a century, also marked a significant victory in the ongoing fight for voting rights across the country.

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“Today, we finally gave immigrant New Yorkers who raise their kids here, build our economy, and contribute to this vibrant city every single day a voice in their local democracy,” NYIC executive director Murad Awawdeh told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

“This groundbreaking legislation gives nearly one million New Yorkers a voice in the issues we all care about; the quality of our schools, the safety of our streets, and countless other large and small ways the city government impacts our lives.

“Now, it’s time for Mayor (Bill) de Blasio to immediately sign Intro 1867 into law,” Awawdeh said. The mayor will demit office on December 31, after two consecutive terms.

“This legislation will usher in the largest enfranchisement of New Yorkers in more than a century and marks a bold step forward in the fight for protecting and expanding democracy. New York City can once again serve as a model for cities and counties across the country.

“When powerful forces lobby to restrict access to the ballot box and seek to turn our country back, New York can and must offer a strong reminder that our leaders don’t get to choose their voters; the voters choose who leads them,” Awawdeh added.

UHN’s executive director, Susan Stamler, said Caribbean and other immigrants are “New Yorkers through and through,” adding that the City Council vote “gives them a voice in the neighborhoods where they live, work and participate in civic life.

“With this outcome, Speaker (Corey) Johnson and the City Council have corrected a historical inequality and given power to voices that have been silenced for far too long,” she said.

“We now call on Mayor de Blasio to sign Intro 1867 into law immediately and take the final step to ensure that immigrant New Yorkers can participate in our democracy,” Stamler said.

Rodriguez told CMC: “It is no secret we are making history today. Fifty years down the line, when our

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, hailed the City Council vote.

“Today, New York will finally restore the right to vote to New York City permanent residents, regardless of federal citizenship status,” Williams, a candidate for New York Governor in next June’s Democratic Primary, told CMC.

“This is a city of immigrants, and New Yorkers deserve a voice in their city representatives and the policies that will shape their lives.

“I’m grateful to the elected officials and advocates who have worked on this issue for so long, and that, even as some states work to strip voting rights from communities of more color, our city joins others across the nation which already have restored this right and expanded democracy,” he added.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Jr., who traces his roots to Jamaica, said that “in a time when democracy itself is under threat across the world, I applaud both the City Council for its courageous vote to enfranchise nearly one million our neighbors and the countless advocates who fought tirelessly for years to make this victory possible.

“Our city, and our democracy, is a fairer and stronger place today because of this vote and the dedicated activism it took to get here,” he said.

CMC

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