DON WINSLOW: Some Villagers Oppose Carrboro Proposal to Let Noncitizens Vote
Then came along a drive to have a Spanish national anthem written for our country because of the influx of legal -- and illegal -- immigrants from south of the border.
Now, a Carrboro alderman, John Herrera, wants his town to allow noncitizens to vote. He proposed that "future U.S. citizens and legal residents on the path to citizenship" be allowed to vote in municipal elections, hoping Carrboro will be the first city in the state to go down that road.
Herrera stated that it took him 10 years to gain citizenship after he came here from Costa Rica and said he "was denied the right" to participate in local government affairs.
When he brought the proposal before the town's Board of Aldermen and the Orange County legislative delegation, several stumbling blocks to the idea were brought up.
Town Attorney Mike Brough pointed out the state Constitution would have to be amended to allow for non-citizens to vote.
Former Mayor Ellie Kinnaird said the idea presents a "huge issue" for consideration.
A story in The News & Observer of Raleigh quoted William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration, as considering the issue "insane." He stressed that doing so would allow foreigners to weigh in on American policy and legislation.
Herrera did not limit his proposal to voting rights. He also suggested delegates support a proposal to provide in-state tuition for immigrant students who were moving towards citizenship.
When a group of Whispering Pines residents discussed the Herrera proposal, there was virtual unanimous agreement that the idea makes no sense.
"Letting someone who is 'on the path' to citizenship could be carried to the extreme," one villager said.
"I play golf three times a week and try to get better," another said. "You might say I am 'on the path' to the pros so why not let me play in the next PGA tour event."
Another village resident had a different observation.
"Better yet, I sing in the shower, and I think I am pretty good, though my wife insists my ear for music left the same day my ear for hearing her disappeared," he said. "Does that mean I qualify to be on the next 'American Idol' show ? After all, as far as I'm concerned, I am 'on the path' to musical stardom."
The idea failed to get any positive comments from the CCWP lunch bunch and rightly so.
My grandparents came to this country from Poland because they sought a better life than they had in Eastern Europe. They did so legally and appreciated their new country from day one.
Though they could not speak English, they forced themselves to learn enough of the language to be able to pass the test they had to take to gain citizenship. They may not have mastered the ability to carry on a detailed conversation, but they did learn to say "George Washington was our first president," and "there are two houses of Congress."
They no more expected to be given the right to vote before they became citizens than they expected to sing Yankee Doodle in the bathtub.
The same holds true today. Legal aliens who have not obtained their citizenship have not earned the right to vote. Nor can illegal aliens expect to have that element of democracy handed to them simply because they are here.
Those here legally can work their way to citizenship, and most do so with pride. But those living in this country illegally can't expect to have that same opportunity.
Sneaking across a border or climbing over a fence was not the way immigrants in the 1800s and 1900s got here. They paid their passage, came across the ocean in steerage and ultimately punched their ticket to become citizens.
Illegals don't even have a ticket to punch!
Don Winslow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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