Former Mayor Bloomberg: The Pro-Immigrant Case Against New York City’s Noncitizen Voting

Good arguments. I agree, the goal should be full citizenship and voting rights, not partial:

I have always strongly supported immigrant rights and worked to protect immigrants, expand visa opportunities, and provide a pathway to citizenship for those who are here. A decade ago, I co-founded a bipartisan coalition of leaders to push for immigration reform, a group that recently merged with the American Immigration Council. And during my time as mayor, we created a program to help more New Yorkers apply for citizenship, which became a national model.

To me, being pro-immigrant has always meant incentivizing and rewarding citizenship — but some cities, unfortunately, are in danger of making it a less attractive proposition.

Generations of immigrants have sought U.S. citizenship to gain full access to the American dream, including all the rights and responsibilities that go along with it — chief of them, the right (and responsibility) to vote. But this month, the New York City Council voted 33-14 to authorize noncitizen voting. The bill would grant some 800,000 immigrants with green cards or work permits, and who have been living in the city for 30 days, the right to participate in elections for mayor, city council and other offices, as well as in local ballot questions.

The bill is likely to be challenged in court, because it conflicts with the plain language of the state constitution, which repeatedly uses the word “citizen” in its suffrage clause: “Every citizen shall be entitled to vote at every election for all officers elected by the people and upon all questions submitted to the vote of the people provided that such citizen is eighteen years of age or over and shall have been a resident of this state, and of the county, city, or village for thirty days next preceding an election.”

For good measure, the bill also appears to violate state election statutes, which list mandatory qualifications for voters: “No person shall be qualified to register for and vote at any election unless he is a citizen of the United States and is or will be, on the day of such election, eighteen years of age or over and a resident of this state.” This is hardly ambiguous language.

Should the plan somehow survive a legal challenge, there’s also the small matter of putting it in place. Ballots in local elections often include state offices (judgeships, for instance) and statewide referendums that noncitizens wouldn’t be eligible to vote for. Preventing noncitizens from voting on those matters would be extremely difficult under any circumstances. Leaving it to the city’s board of elections, a notoriously incompetent patronage mill, is a recipe for disaster.

Other jurisdictions may not face exactly these legal and logistical obstacles, but the biggest problem with noncitizen voting isn’t a legal or technical obstacle: It’s the way it devalues citizenship.

Proponents of the concept argue that voting gives the noncitizen more civic connections and a bigger “stake” in the community. This gets things precisely backward: Voting is a major reason many immigrants seek to obtain citizenship. They recognize that citizenship brings greater rights and responsibilities. If cities want more immigrants to become citizens — as they absolutely should — stripping away that incentive won’t help.

There’s no question that the route immigrants must travel to obtain citizenship is too slow and too restrictive. Fixing this process requires the White House and Congress to work with Republicans on a bipartisan deal, which noncitizen voting will make even more difficult and unlikely.

In fact, it will lend credence to the Republican argument that Democrats support immigration reform purely to pad their own voter rolls. This view is false, but pushing for noncitizen voting will only make it harder to refute, while also making the national conversation on the topic more toxic than it already is.

Immigrants deserve to be heard and protected. But that will not happen with local attempts to supersede the broken federal system. Instead, we must do the hard work of fixing it through federal legislation — without making that even more difficult than it already is.

Historically, incentivizing citizenship by combining it with the right to vote has benefited both immigrant communities and America as a whole — not only by integrating diverse cultures, but by cultivating a shared sense of purpose and national identity.

Local leaders should not attempt to break that compact. They should instead unite their efforts on Washington, so more immigrants have the opportunity to become full-fledged citizens — and voters.

Source: The Pro-Immigrant Case Against New York City’s Noncitizen Voting

Police Data Reveals Stark Racial Discrepancies in Social Distancing Enforcement Across New York City

Of note:

On Friday, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) released six weeks worth of data related to social distancing enforcement, following New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s March order mandating people stay inside and avoid congregating in large groups. The release comes amid mounting criticism of racial disparities in police enforcement of Cuomo’s orders, and just a day after Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez released social distancing arrest data for his borough.

Both data sets reveal that minority communities have been impacted to a far greater extent by police enforcement during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the NYPD data, 374 summons “for violations of emergency procedures and acts liable to spread disease” were handed out by police between March 16 and May 5. A summons is a ticket that is usually issued to someone by a police officer for a court appearance after violating a law.

Of that 374 summons, 304 were handed out to black and Hispanic people.

Related information from the Brooklyn DA’s office confirmed that 40 people were arrested from March 17 to May 4 for not following social distancing measures. 35 of those people were black, four of them were Hispanic and one was white.

DA Gonzalez said that his office is reviewing allegations of excessive force in Brooklyn arrest incidents, adding that arrests should be a last resort.

“Simply stated, we cannot police ourselves out of this pandemic. Instead, we need to give people the knowledge and ability to keep safe,” Gonzalez said in a statement.

According to the New York Times, the NYPD has made at least 120 arrests for social distancing between March 16 and May 5 across New York City as a whole. Of these arrests, 68% of those detained were black and 24% of them were Hispanic.

These numbers have become a point of mounting criticism for the police department and the mayor’s office. Police reform activists, community advocates and even the New York City Police Benevolent Association (NYC PBA) have said that police officers should not be enforcing social distancing at all.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the NYPD’s role in social distancing enforcement during a Thursday press conference, after being questioned about whether it had become comparable to stop-and-frisk, the policing practice of stopping someone and searching them for weapons or other illegal items that disproportionately impacted black and Latino men during its height.

“What happened with stop and frisk was a systematic, oppressive, unconstitutional strategy that created a new problem much bigger than anything it purported to solve,” de Blasio said. “This is the farthest thing from that. This is addressing a pandemic.”

After the release of the arrest data from Brooklyn, he tweeted that the racial “disparity” apparent did not reflect the NYPD’s larger work. However, “We HAVE TO do better and WE WILL,” he wrote.

“That disparity, I don’t like, I don’t accept,” de Blasio continued during a Friday press conference. ” I want to see every community treated fairly, but I want a resolute approach where it’s really clear we got to follow these rules.”

De Blasio also announced Friday that, in response to “consistent overcrowding” in parks across the city, a cap would be placed on the number of people allowed, and that “extra enforcement” would be seen to that effect.

Source: Police Data Reveals Stark Racial Discrepancies in Social Distancing Enforcement Across New York City

Most of the 23 million immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 election live in just five states

Useful perspective and comparisons:

About one-in-ten people eligible to vote in this year’s U.S. presidential election are immigrants. And most (61%) of these 23 million naturalized citizens live in just five states.

California has more immigrant eligible voters (5.5 million) than any other state, more than New York (2.5 million) and Florida (2.5 million) combined. Texas and New Jersey round out the top five, with 1.8 million and 1.2 million immigrant eligible voters, respectively.

Here is a closer look at immigrant eligible voters in these five states.

How we did this

1Asians make up 43% of immigrant eligible voters in California, the highest of any racial or ethnic group.Nationally, Latinos make up a higher share of immigrant eligible voters than Asians (34% vs. 31%), but the reverse is true in the Golden State, where many Latino immigrants are ineligible to vote because they do not hold U.S. citizenship.

California’s immigrant eligible voters come from many countries. But three origin countries account for 46% of the total: Mexico (1.5 million immigrant eligible voters), the Philippines (604,000 voters) and Vietnam (430,000 voters).

The vast majority of California’s immigrant eligible voters (75%) have lived in the United States for more than 20 years. The share is highest (82%) among California’s Latino immigrant voters. Smaller majorities of Asian (71%), white (71%) and black (59%) immigrant eligible voters in California have lived in the country for at least two decades. English proficiency varies widely among the state’s immigrant eligible voters. For example, 86% of black immigrant eligible voters in California are English proficient, a substantially higher share than among all the state’s immigrant eligible voters (55%).

2New York stands out for the racial and ethnic diversity of its immigrant eligible voters. Asians (26%), Latinos (25%) and whites (25%) make up similar shares of the state’s immigrant eligible voters, while black immigrants (21%) are a slightly lower share.

When it comes to speaking English, black immigrant eligible voters in New York are substantially more likely to be English proficient (89%) than white (66%), Asian (52%) and Latino (47%) immigrant voters.

In New York, no single birth country accounts for a large share of the state’s immigrant eligible voters; about a quarter of foreign-born voters come from the state’s three largest birth countries. Immigrants from the Dominican Republic are the largest single group, with 264,000 eligible voters, followed by China (207,000) and Jamaica (143,000).

3Latinos make up 54% of Florida’s immigrant eligible voters, far higher than the shares of white, black and Asian immigrant voters in the state (17%, 16% and 10% respectively).

Florida’s immigrant voters have varying levels of English proficiency. For example, around half (51%) of Latino immigrant eligible voters are proficient in English, a far lower share than among white (82%) or black (81%) immigrant voters.

With 606,000 voters, Cuban immigrants are the largest group in Florida’s foreign-born electorate. Colombian immigrants, at 190,000, and Haitian immigrants, at 187,000, are the second- and third-largest groups.

4Texas rivals Florida in its share of Hispanic immigrant voters. Roughly half (52%) of all immigrant eligible voters in Texas are Hispanic, a share that trails only Florida (54%) among the top states. Asian immigrants are the second-largest group in Texas at 29%.

Around seven-in-ten immigrant voters in Texas (68%) have lived in the U.S. for more than two decades, similar to the share among all U.S. immigrant voters (68%). However, the share of long-term residents is notably lower among black immigrant voters in Texas (40%).

A high share of black and white immigrant voters in Texas are English proficient (88% and 85%, respectively). Lower shares of Asian (64%) and Hispanic (47%) immigrant voters are proficient. This is similar to the pattern nationally.

By country of birth, Mexican immigrants alone account for 40% of all immigrant voters in Texas, or 736,000 people. The second-largest group, with 130,000 voters, are immigrants from Vietnam, while Indian immigrants, with 115,000 voters, make up the third-largest group in the state.

New Jersey has the highest share of Asian immigrant eligible voters with a bachelor’s degree or higher5New Jersey has a high share of Asian immigrant voters with a college degree. About two-thirds of Asian immigrant voters in New Jersey (66%) have a bachelor’s degree or higher. That’s substantially higher than the share among other immigrant voter groups in the state and the share among immigrant voters in the U.S. overall (36%), including those who are Asian.

Among New Jersey’s 1.2 million immigrant eligible voters, 32% are Latino, 30% are Asian, 25% are white and 11% are black.

Meanwhile, the top birth countries for immigrant eligible voters in New Jersey are India (122,000 voters), the Dominican Republic (103,000) and the Philippines (63,000).

See the table below (or open it as a PDF) for detailed characteristics of immigrant eligible voters in California, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey and nationally.

Demographics of naturalized citizen eligible voters in select states

Source: Most of the 23 million immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 election live in just five states

The Scourge of Racial Bias in New York State’s Prisons – The New York Times

Good but disturbing investigative reporting:

Most forbidding are the maximum-security penitentiaries — Attica, Clinton, Great Meadow — in rural areas where the population is almost entirely white and nearly every officer is too. The guards who work these cellblocks rarely get to know a black person who is not behind bars.

Whether loud and vulgar or insinuated and masked, racial bias in the state prison system is a fact of life.

It is also measurable.

A review by The New York Times of tens of thousands of disciplinary cases against inmates in 2015, hundreds of pages of internal reports and three years of parole decisions found that racial disparities were embedded in the prison experience in New York.

In most prisons, blacks and Latinos were disciplined at higher rates than whites — in some cases twice as often, the analysis found. They were also sent to solitary confinement more frequently and for longer durations. At Clinton, a prison near the Canadian border where only one of the 998 guards is African-American, black inmates were nearly four times as likely to be sent to isolation as whites, and they were held there for an average of 125 days, compared with 90 days for whites.

A greater share of black inmates are in prison for violent offenses, and minority inmates are disproportionately younger, factors that could explain why an inmate would be more likely to break prison rules, state officials said. But even after accounting for these elements, the disparities in discipline persisted, The Times found.

The disparities were often greatest for infractions that gave discretion to officers, like disobeying a direct order. In these cases, the officer has a high degree of latitude to determine whether a rule is broken and does not need to produce physical evidence. The disparities were often smaller, according to the Times analysis, for violations that required physical evidence, like possession of contraband.

Blacks make up only 14 percent of the state’s population but almost half of its prisoners. Racial inequities at the front end of the criminal justice system — arrest, conviction and sentencing — have been well documented.

The degree of racial inequity and its impact in the prison system as documented by The Times have rarely, if ever, been investigated. Nor are these issues systematically tracked by state officials. But for black inmates, what happens inside can be profoundly damaging.

Bias in prison discipline has a ripple effect — it prevents access to jobs and to educational and therapeutic programs, diminishing an inmate’s chances of being paroled. And each denial is likely to mean two more years behind bars.

A Times analysis of first-time hearings before the State Board of Parole over a three-year period ending in May found that one in four white inmates were released but fewer than one in six black inmates were.

Source: The Scourge of Racial Bias in New York State’s Prisons – The New York Times

USA/New York: Costs of applying for #citizenship soaring

A local illustration of the impact of costly citizenship fees (Canada not immune given the increase in fees from $100 to $530 in 2014, along with the cost of language assessment around $200, a definite contributing factor in the decline of citizenship applications from an earlier average of some 200,000 a year to a more recent 130,000 per year):

Nearly 670,000 New Yorkers are eligible to apply for citizenship, but the costs have spiked so high that immigrants may no longer be able to afford becoming full-fledged Americans, the city comptroller has warned.

The citizen application fees have soared nearly 500 percent since 1989, after adjusting for inflation, from $68 to $680 [CAD 940] today, according to Comptroller Scott Stringer. In addition, the city recently cut back on adult literacy programs and now provide only limited access to affordable legal services.

These barriers to citizenship are among the findings in a new report from Stringer released last week.

“With costs that can reach into the thousands of dollars, our citizenship process has become too expensive for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers,” Stringer said. “High fees and diminished access to English instruction and affordable legal services are throwing up roadblocks to naturalization for this generation of immigrants. Becoming a citizen is an integral part of the American experience. Every New Yorker deserves a fair and fighting chance to make it in this city and it’s the job of government to break down barriers to help those who have lived and worked here to make citizenship an attainable goal.”

Low-income immigrants are currently offered free waivers for the paperwork costs, but the waiver process is “plagued by problems,” according to Stringer. In 2011, only 23,000 fee waivers for naturalization were granted out of a total of 756,000 applications, just over 3 percent.

Applicants must pass a language-proficiency test, but English language classes cost around $400 per week for group lessons. Although the New York Public Library expanded seats for free English classes by 300 percent over the last three years, the report said, several branches have reported having to turn away applicants, unable to meet the high demand.

Source: Costs of applying for citizenship soaring: Stringer • TimesLedger