Thinking Citizen Blog — The Rights of Illegal Immigrants — the Constitution, the Driver’s License, Voting

Thinking Citizen Blog — Saturday is Justice, Freedom, Law, and Values Day

Today’s Topic: The Rights of Illegal Immigrants — the Constitution, the Driver’s License, Voting

What rights do illegal immigrants have? what rights should they have? who says? Today’s post was inspired by an article by Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby in which he argued that while illegal immigrants should not be allowed to vote, they should be allowed to get driver’s licenses. Is he right on both counts? On just one? Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


1. It is generally understood that the Bill of Rights applies to both citizens and noncitizens.

2. But that the right to vote and to hold public office applies only to citizens.

3. Noncitizens include legal permanent and temporary residents as well as illegal immigrants.

NB: “According to the Pew Research Center there were approximately 25 million noncitizens living in the U.S. as of 2017. That included 12.3 million permanent residents and 2.2 million temporary residents in the country with legal permission and 10.5 million living in the country without legal permission.”

NONCITIZEN VOTING — Federal ban, two state constitutions ban, fifteen municipalities allow

1. 1996 federal law bans noncitizen voting in federal elections.

2. No state constitution officially allows noncitizen voting. Two state constitutions explicitly ban it — Arizona and North Dakota.

3. “Fifteen municipalities across the country allowed noncitizens to vote in local elections as of January 2022. Eleven were located in Maryland, two were located in Vermont, one was New York City, and the other was San Francisco, California.”

NB: “Supporters of allowing noncitizens to vote argue that prohibiting them from doing so is unjust because of barriers to naturalization, that prohibiting them from voting encourages discriminatory public policy, that allowing noncitizens to vote doesn’t discourage them from seeking citizenship, and that allowing noncitizens to vote promotes policy that benefits. Opponents…argue that people should accept the duties of citizenship before being allowed to vote, that prohibiting noncitizens from voting is not discriminatory, that allowing noncitizens to voie would discourage them from seeking citizenship, and that allowing them to vote would not benefit society as a whole.”


1. “No rational person thinks that residents who entered the country without a visa should be barred for that reasons for applying for a debit card, signing up for Netflix, or getting a COVID vaccine. Why the endless furor over authorizing them to take a road test and obtain a driver’s license?” (Jacoby, Boston Globe, first link).

2. “Sixteen states, ranging from deep blue Connecticut to deep red Utah, have made it legal for unauthorized foreigners to apply for driver’s licenses. Massachusetts ought to become the 17th.” (Jacoby)

3. “A consumer does not have to be a US citizen or US national to qualify for Medicaid or CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) or enroll in a qualified health plan (QHP) through the Marketplace.” (last link below)

NB: Apparently, noncitizen households use welfare programs at higher rates than citizen households. (See 8th and 9th links below).

63% of Non-Citizen Households Access Welfare Programs

Welfare Use for Immigrants and Native-Born Households

For the last four years of posts organized by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive

Two special attachments below:

#1 A graphic guide to justice (9 metaphors on one page).

#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20


Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to justice, freedom, the law or basic values. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to justice, freedom, the law, or basic values. Or just some random justice-related fact that blew you away.

This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply about something dear to your heart.



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