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City of San Francisco Under Heavy Fire as Undocumented Immigrants Begin to Cast Votes

The City Approved this Action in a 2016 Measure

By Sean Brown, October 24, 2018 12:02 pm

As November’s local, state, and federal elections draw nearer, thousands of people are beginning to cast their votes. Despite this relatively normal practice, the city of San Francisco has attracted the eye of national media and substantial controversy.

Two years ago, San Francisco voters decided to amend their city charter to allow anyone with a child in school the right to vote, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. Now, San Francisco Unified School District is starting to see an influx in votes from non-citizens.

Supporters of the contested measure believe it’s only right to give parents with kids in school a voice in how those schools are run. “We are in the midst of a difficult national political context for immigrant communities, but in San Francisco we are modeling what we know is right” said San Francisco Supervisor Sandra Fewer.

Despite the measure passing, the controversial program hasn’t exactly boosted turnout yet. According to The Associated Press, just 35 noncitizens have registered since the restrictions were lifted, however, registration for the school board vote has only been open for two days. Local officials believe there are many more undocumented immigrants looking to vote, but once registered, the federal government has access to that information thus deterring many from the polls in fear of their identities being exposed. “We’re in an unprecedented arena of animosity toward our immigrant community, and that has really stopped people from voting,” added Sandra Fewer who is also a former member of the school board.

While noncitizen voting remains illegal throughout the rest of the state, San Francisco’s ‘sanctuary city’ laws have certainly kindred this progressive policy. On one hand, the city wants to get noncitizens involved in elections, but on the other hand they shelter the same people from the government going as far as directing the election department to post warnings on its registration form and on flyers acknowledging voter information would be public and could be seen by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other agencies.

Noncitizens who still opt to vote are listed on a separate roster from citizens and receive a ballot with just the school board contest, although opponents of this practice believe it’s a very slippery slope. Former candidate for governor and current State Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) said yesterday “illegal immigrants now voting in Gavin Newsom’s San Francisco. Non-citizens now “eligible” to vote in November’s local election due to Democrat ordinance. The CA Democrat Party has gone too far. It’s time we take back California!” The California Globe contacted Newsom’s office – the former San Francisco Mayor, to see if he still approves of the policy, but we have yet to get a response. Newsom is leading in California’s gubernatorial race.

It is unclear if this policy will gain traction in other parts of the state, but according to Yahoo News, “Norma Garcia, director of policy and advocacy for the Mission Economic Development Agency, which advocates for immigrant rights, said she hopes more noncitizens will vote if the political climate changes in the future. ‘The numbers are not what anyone would have wanted them to be, but we’re confident there will be increased participation once the political tide shifts,’ Garcia said.”

Sean Brown

Before becoming a writer for the California Globe, Sean served as a Legislative Director in the New York City Council and is an NYU alumnus.
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