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Can a Non-Citizen Hold the Keys to the Electoral Kingdom?

The City by the Bay shows America the thin edge of the wedge.

San Francisco just appointed the first non-citizen to the city’s Elections Commission. That’s right, a person who does not have the legal right to vote was given a position on the body that oversees and creates policies for the city’s Department of Elections.

The Commission’s Duties and Responsibilities

Should someone who is not legally eligible to vote be a member of a body that develops rules and regulations for voters? The Golden Gate City seems to think so since they unanimously appointed non-citizen Kelly Wong on Feb. 14.

The commission is made up of seven members who serve five-year terms and are appointed by public officials such as the mayor, public defender, district attorney, and city attorney. According to its website, responsibilities include “before each election, approving written plans for how the election will be conducted” and “setting general policies for the Department of Elections,” among other duties. The site also states, “Members appointed by the District Attorney, Public Defender, the Board of Education of the San Francisco Unified School District, and the Board of Supervisors must be broadly representative of the general public.”

Wong, an immigrant rights advocate, received a lot of support at her appointment, but there was also quite a bit of public outrage as well.

Who Is Non-Citizen Kelly Wong?

Wong immigrated from Hong Kong in 2019 and worked toward her master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Her LinkedIn profile indicates she has devoted her career to “championing immigrant rights and equity and inclusion.” Currently, she works at the advocacy organization Chinese for Affirmative Action.

New Banner Border CrisisThere is a lot of controversy over allowing illegal migrants the same rights and privileges as American citizens, such as the right to vote. San Francisco recently made it legal for a non-citizen to vote in school board elections where they have children in attendance, as well as the ability to serve on civilian commissions. For some, the problem isn’t just that Wong is a non-citizen appointed to a body that is in charge of rules and regulations for voting, it’s also her strong background in advocating for migrants, especially Chinese immigrants, to have more political power.

Before she received her degree, Wong worked with trafficking victims, refugees in Hong Kong while working at Fair Employment Agency, International Organization for Migration, and with migrant domestic workers. One of her goals is to help migrants understand laws and voting. “I’ve seen how language and cultural barriers prevent immigrants with limited English proficiency from fully exercising their right to vote,” she said. “Is there a way to do voter outreach that is not just about translation but can touch on political education while maintaining neutrality and impartiality in elections?”

For those opposed to illegal immigrants holding commission appointments and being able to vote, seeing Wong give her acceptance speech in Chinese was an insult. Sandra, a poster on X, wrote:

“Kelly Wong is Chinese. NOT a US Citizen. She came to US in 2019 from China. San Francisco appoints her to elections commission. It isn’t unreasonable to believe she is also working for the Chinese Communist Party.

“Why do Democrats hate America?”

Co-executive Director for Chinese for Affirmative Action Vincent Pan told KQED, “I’m hoping there will be a day where it won’t be as newsworthy that you have someone who’s an immigrant and a noncitizen involved in helping make the city run better, especially in a city where such a large percentage of the community is immigrants.”

However, as migrants seem to gain more and more privileges that used to be reserved for citizens, concerns over the country’s integrity grow. Where is the incentive to be or become a citizen when illegal immigrants have the same rights and privileges? Wong’s appointment raises apprehension within the community that the goal is to allow the undocumented the right to vote and control the city. Wong’s words seem to reinforce that fear: “There are always voices inside my head. Like, ‘You can’t do it. You’re not competent. You’re an immigrant. This is not your country.’ That’s not true. If I can do it, you can do it.”

Wong is not the first non-citizen to be appointed to a city commission in California, though. In 2015, two undocumented immigrants were appointed to city advisory boards in Huntington Park, the first city in the state to do so. In 2020, another immigrant joined the Citizen Oversight Commission in Santa Ana.

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