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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Citizen Victory Movement proposes allowing foreigners to vote

By The Star Staff

Senator Ana Irma Rivera Lassén and Senator Rafael Bernabe Riefkohl of the Citizen Victory Movement (MVC) filed a bill to allow foreigners residing in Puerto Rico the right to vote in elections.

“Currently, foreigners residing in Puerto Rico cannot vote in elections because they do not have U.S. citizenship. This goes against internationally recognized human rights, unjustifiably denies them the fundamental right to vote, and excludes them from choosing the government under which they live. Immigrants who live in Puerto Rico work here, consume here, contribute significantly to our economy, enrich our culture, have families and are an important part of our society. With this bill, we seek to end this discriminatory and undemocratic exclusion and recognize the right to vote to every person who resides in Puerto Rico, regardless of their citizenship,” Rivera Lassén said.

Senate Bill 1340 arises due to multiple efforts and public hearings carried out by the Human Rights and Labor Affairs Committee, chaired by Rivera Lassén, about immigrants in Puerto Rico, the challenges they face, and the need to protect their rights. Senators Ramón Ruiz Nieves and William Villafañe Ramos joined the bill as authors. Although extending the right to vote to immigrants residing on the Island is a bill that a previous administration brought in, it was not approved.

“There are many difficult situations and discrimination that immigrant communities still face. The government can’t continue allowing an outrage as great as not allowing them to exercise their right to vote. It is time to comply with the constitutional mandate for equal protection of the laws that also protect foreigners,” she added.

Along the same lines is Senate Bill 1147 to create the Bill of Rights of Immigrants, a multi-party initiative of which Senator Rivera Lassén is one of the authors along with Villafañe Ramos and other senators. The measure is before the Committee on Human Rights and Labor Affairs and will be considered in an executive hearing. The bill takes as its starting point the United Nations Charter of Human Rights and international conventions on human rights and fundamental freedoms of immigrants, in the hope that all of these are recognized in Puerto Rico.

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