Oakland, CA – On Tuesday, June 21st, 2022 Oakland City Council passed a vote to send Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Treva Reid’s Noncitizen Voting Measure to the November 8th general election ballot. If passed by voters this measure would allow noncitizen parents, legal guardians, and legally recognized caregivers of children who are eligible to attend Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) schools, the ability to vote in OUSD Board Director elections.
This vote comes a day after their press conference held on Monday, June 20th, 2022 in front of Oakland International High School. The Councilmembers were joined by a number of advocates including community-based organizations The Unity Council and Homies Empowerment, school board officials, and parents, who all uplifted the legislation and shared powerful words of support.
If passed this measure would give the many residential noncitizen parents, legal guardians, and legally recognized caregivers of children eligible to attend OUSD schools, a voice regarding the school board decisions that currently cause a disconnect between the needs of their children and the quality of education those children receive.
“Noncitizen parents are already doing the hard work to try to ensure that their children each get a good education. Many are already volunteering at their children’s schools. But what we’re hearing overwhelmingly is that these parents often don’t feel heard...” said Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb, “This measure to allow noncitizen parents to vote will allow us to ensure that these parents are heard and that their children’s needs are better met as a result. All parents of school-age children should be able to help decide who runs the school system."
“Noncitizens were able to vote in this country from 1776 to 1926. Undocumented citizens in California contribute 3.2 billion dollars every year in the form of taxes, which amounts to taxation without representation. It is critical that every parent regardless of legal status be allowed to vote as it creates a more engaged community here in Oakland and ultimately it betters our society. Putting this initiative on the ballot is crucial and passing it means we take one step forward in the quest for equal access for all," said Dr. César Cruz, Founder of Homies Empowerment.
“Black immigrants from African and predominantly Black Caribbean countries are the most underserved communities in California, in general, and [the] Bay Area, in particular. Due to the data collecting system, their whims and aspirations are always neglected for they remain invisible. Giving access to education is one thing, but ensuring quality education in its provision and management is another thing. Ensuring the right to vote for Black immigrants is empowering them to exercise their right of expression and allows them to impact the quality of education that has a huge stake in the life of their children. It is both timely and necessary to give them what the community owes them,” said Aron Berhane, Community Educator, Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI).
“The Unity Council is proud to be a member of the coalition of supporters of the Noncitizen Voting Ballot Initiative...” said Karely Ordaz, Chief of Staff at The Unity Council, “...this ballot initiative is what equity-in-practice looks like and we’re proud that the City of Oakland is taking steps to untangle the racist American voting system designed to silence the voices of marginalized people. Because over 27% of California’s population is comprised of immigrants, the time to give them a voice is now.”
“As City leaders, we must uplift and deliver on our values of equity, inclusion, and access for Oakland families, including opportunities that empower the voice and vote of all parents and legal guardians in their students' educational journey. This Noncitizen Voting Measure will ensure families—including many immigrants and refugees from Africa, Asia, and South America—with over 17,000 students are seen and heard at the voting polls to improve academic outcomes for all students within Oakland Unified School District (OUSD). It is our responsibility to promote pathways to provide increased quality resources, educator and family support, and mental health services that will advance equitable academic and life outcomes for all students to thrive,” said Oakland City Councilmember Treva Reid.
Oakland has been ranked numerous times as one of the most diverse cities in the United States. According to the 2020 Census, Oakland was home to over 230,000 individuals of voting age, with at least 13,000 of those individuals being noncitizens. These non-citizens come from an array of countries and from various ethnic backgrounds, including Latino, African, and Asian descent. These parents pay taxes, send their children to public schools, start businesses, provide housing, serve as essential workers, and contribute to Oakland’s development in a number of other positive ways. It is time that we listen to the voices of these parents.
There is much conversation around the country about bringing back voting rights for noncitizens—a decision that cities like New York and San Francisco have already made. The Noncitizen Voting Measure would make Oakland a leader in expanding voting rights in a way that is long overdue.