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|Richardson: Towns should have option to let illegal immigrants vote locally||April 8, 2009|
|John Hilliard 508-626-4449||Metrowest Daily News|
The town's state representative said yesterday that cities and towns should have the option to grant illegal immigrants voting rights in local elections to draw them closer into their communities.
In state Rep. Pam Richardson's hometown of Framingham, many of the illegal immigrants - who are largely from Brazil - lack a political voice in their community, she said.
"It's not hard to figure out in the Brazilian community (that) it's very fractured...they don't have a process to pick a leader," she said.
Richardson's position was targeted by anti-illegal immigration critics yesterday, including Boston radio host Michael Graham, who wrote about Richardson on his blog and in his Boston Herald column.
Graham also posted a video which showed Richardson speaking at a state Democratic party meeting in Framingham, during which she backed giving communities the choice to extend voting rights.
Her testimony was part of her proposal for additions to the state party's official platform. The state Democrats will vote on those proposals during a meeting this June in Springfield.
Richardson wouldn't comment on Graham, saying she didn't know who he is.
"What I am a supporter of is giving communities the option" of allowing illegal immigrants to participate in local elections, said Richardson.
Framingham has an estimated 10,000 or more illegal immigrants, she said.
According to the Immigrant Voting Project, Amherst and Cambridge have passed home-rule petitions that would allow non-citizens to vote in some local elections. The measures failed to become law, however, because state lawmakers didn't approve a needed exemption under the state's general laws, which prohibit non-citizens from voting.
Similar efforts have started in Somerville, Chelsea, Everett and Newton, according to the group's Web site.
Richardson said she has gotten several e-mails on the voting proposal, but many of them are not from constituents and many didn't understand her proposal.
"Obviously, I want to hear from my constituents on this issue," she said.
During the same Democratic party hearing, Richardson also supported issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants and qualifying them for the in-state tuition rate that Massachusetts residents are charged to attend public higher education. The state charges a higher rate for students who come from outside Massachusetts.
The tuition measure has been backed by Gov. Deval Patrick. A 2006 Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation report said the measure would prompt hundreds of illegal immigrants to enroll in public higher education and generate millions of dollars in tuition.
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