June 27, 2022
IRLI had shown court that law violates the Constitution
WASHINGTON—Today, a New York state court struck down a law the New York City Council had passed giving the right to vote in city elections to alien residents of the city who are permitted to work in the United States. The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) had submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in the case a month ago urging that the law be struck down.
IRLI had explained in its brief that, under the judicial precedents interpreting the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, discrimination against groups courts have held to be “protected classes” must be struck down unless it passes “strict scrutiny,” that is, can be shown to be necessary to achieve a compelling governmental interest. Aliens, racial groups, and groups defined by national origin have all been held to be protected classes.
IRLI showed that American citizens, too, should be considered a protected class. The alien voting law, IRLI pointed out, would dilute the votes of American citizens in New York City, by letting those who are not citizens vote. The law also discriminates against voters in New York City who were born in this country and thus are of American national origin, because the law would only add foreign-born persons to the voting rolls, thus diluting the votes of the American-born. Those of American national origin are a protected class, as well, and laws burdening them have to receive strict scrutiny.
IRLI then showed that this law could never pass strict scrutiny, because the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that all Americans, whatever their national origin, have a constitutional right to be ruled by their fellow citizens, not by aliens.
Today, the court agreed with IRLI that the alien voting law would harm U.S. citizens in New York City by diluting their votes. It also held that provisions in the New York Constitution restrict the right to vote in any election in the state to U.S. citizens. Accordingly, the court invalidated the law.
“We applaud the court for its decision, and are pleased this law is now null and void,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “Laws such as this are an attack on the very idea of American nationhood. The sovereign of this democratic nation is the people, U.S. citizens. When their power is eroded, our nation begins to lose its independence. Despite today’s victory, we fully expect that this is not the end of activists’ attempts to extend the vote to aliens, even in federal elections. We intend to use the arguments we honed in this case in future cases, to preserve the power of the American people over the destiny of their nation.”
The case is Fossella v. Adams, No. 85007/2022 (N.Y. Supreme Court, County of Richmond).
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