SAN FRANCISCO — Today, on Thursday, January 27, 2022, the Immigrant Parent Voting Collaborative (IPVC) held a virtual press conference in advance of the upcoming San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) special election, which will provide thousands of noncitizen parents the chance to exercise their newfound right to vote.
In December 2021, following decades of grassroots organizing, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors made history with the permanent extension of noncitizen voting rights in SFUSD elections. As cities and states across the nation continue to roll back voting rights, San Francisco’s decision to expand them to noncitizen parents serves as a powerful reminder that the fight for a stronger, and more expansive democracy is far from over.
During this morning’s press conference, the collaborative joined immigrant rights advocates, elected officials, and noncitizen parents in celebrating the extension of noncitizen voting rights ahead of a special election.
“Our youth and their families deserve to have a say in their education regardless of immigration status,” said Supervisor Connie Chan, who sponsored the amendment. “This is why I authored this legislation to ensure our parents and guardians can participate in all elections impacting the Board of Education. I thank our Department of Elections and community stakeholders for their efforts to ensure a safe and fair voting process for our non-citizens parents and guardians. I urge everyone to vote.”
“San Francisco leads the nation in immigrant rights,” added Supervisor Myrna Melgar, Co-sponsor of this ordinance, “I am proud that we are also a family-friendly city that empowers all parents and guardians to fully participate in their children’s education and the policies that impact that education”. She concluded, “I hope that other cities and states will continue to look to us as an example of what it means to build an inclusive democracy.”
The IPVC is a nonpartisan coalition committed to empowering immigrant communities, including noncitizen voters, to assert their right to participate in the democratic process. Following the permanent extension of noncitizen voting, the collaborative has conducted extensive outreach, registering immigrant and noncitizen voters and encouraging parent engagement in K-12 issues.
“Many limited-English proficient parents are unfamiliar with the school board, and how it makes decisions,” said Ah Yee, an immigrant parent and longtime advocate for noncitizen voting. “That is why community outreach is so important. If we want to mobilize immigrant families, we must continue to host workshops, distribute flyers, and empower them to assert their right to vote, and assume leadership positions in their children’s schools.”
In the past 30 days alone, IPVC has joined forces with SFUSD to reach over 53,000 families, many of whom will cast their ballots in next month’s special election.
“Whether noncitizen parents vote yes or no on the upcoming recall, what matters is that they feel empowered to take a stand on the behalf of their children and engage in our democracy,” said Mouneissa Wangara with the African Advocacy Network, one of eight current members of the IPVC.
This is not the first time that San Francisco has led the rest of the nation in immigrant rights. In 1974, Chinese for Affirmative Action, another member of the IPVC, was instrumental in preparing for Lau v. Nichols, the first U.S. Supreme Court decision to guarantee bilingual education for English learners.
“Without the tireless activism of noncitizen families, San Francisco would not be the inclusive place it is today,” said CAA Director of Programs Annette Wong. “This decision will ensure that immigrant voices continue to be heard, both in the streets and at the ballot box.”
Noncitizen voting will also make our schools better. When immigrant families have the power to affect decision-making, we can do more to increase cultural competencies, reduce language barriers, and provide immigrant children the resources they need to thrive.
Voters have until January 31, 2022 to register for the special election on February 15. Unregistered noncitizen voters also have the right to cast a provisional ballot in-person on election day. For more information, community members can visit www.sfelections.org/ncv.
The Immigrant Parent Voting Collaborative (IPVC) was established in 2018 to increase immigrant and noncitizen voter engagement in San Francisco. It is co-led by eight immigrant-serving organizations, including the African Advocacy Network, the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, the Central American Resource Center of San Francisco, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, La Raza Community Resource Center, Mission Economic Development Agency, and Mission Graduates. To learn more about the IPVC, visit www.facebook.com/YouCanVoteSF.