- - Monday, September 5, 2022

In 2014, Samuel Swift-Perez sought asylum in the United States from socialist-controlled Venezuela. Like so many others whose countries of origin are wracked with crime, oppressed by authoritarian governments, and burdened by economic uncertainty, Samuel wanted a better life.

He found one in America. Eight years later, he proudly stood before a judge in Kansas City, Missouri, raised his right hand, and took the sacred Oath of Citizenship. His wife was with him, tears in her eyes, as Samuel celebrated the culmination of years of hard work towards this incredible moment.

Samuel said, “(This ceremony) means the beginning of a new life. It’s actually some kind of relief, to feel finally as a citizen because (for immigrants) you actually are a temporary resident and then a permanent resident, but you still feel a little limited. But now I feel very, very good and I’m very happy.”



He is not alone. Every year, more than one million immigrants from all over the world experience the reward of their dedication in ceremonies like Samuel’s. For many, it is emotional and joyful. So many people work so hard, for so long, and faithfully follow the law because the prospect of citizenship is precious and priceless. American citizenship has an important meaning and is worth pursuing, which is precisely why millions do it every single year.

To be an American citizen is to have the right to a voice to help determine who represents you in government and who will stand for your ideas, values, and freedom. The U.S. Constitution limits the government to very specific tasks, and, unlike other countries, it has stood the test of time. The average length of a constitution in countries around the world is 17 years. In 246 years, America has had only one. That one vital document has allowed and continues to allow our citizens to live free from tyranny. The Constitution also guarantees your right to life, liberty, property, speech, protest, worship, self-defense, and more—rights that cannot be arbitrarily taken away by the government.

To be an American citizen is to be part of the greatest nation in the world. America has a rich history and countless examples of immigrants, explorers, trailblazers, entrepreneurs, and others who have risen from adversity to greatness. Only in America do these opportunities abound, regardless of country of origin, race, gender, or religion. Anyone can achieve their version of the American Dream and build a life for themselves that is prosperous and free, as so many others have done over the years. Samuel and so many millions of others understand that and have literally risked death to be part of it.

One of the greatest responsibilities Americans have is to participate in our representative government by exercising our ability to vote. As an American citizen, casting a ballot is a civic duty and a unique privilege. For naturalized citizens, this is a reward after tireless work, patience, and dedication put into the process of becoming a citizen.

Sadly, some on the Left are diminishing and disrespecting the hard work of naturalized citizens by expanding the privilege to vote in American elections to non-Americans. By doing so, they are denigrating years of struggle that naturalized citizens go through simply to achieve political power. They use words like “equity” and “voting rights” as a rouse to cover their raw political desires. But in reality, they are giving unfair preference to individuals who have not made an effort or made the sacrifices to obtain American citizenship.

Clearly, some on the Left do not think very highly of American citizenship; otherwise, they would afford it the respect it deserves. In states like Maryland, New York, and California, non-American citizens living there can vote in certain elections. Other states like New Mexico have even introduced legislation allowing non-citizens to vote. This is lunacy. Non-Americans should not be allowed to vote in American elections—period. Only American citizens should have that right. Does the government of Mexico allow non-citizens to vote in its elections? How about France or Germany? Of course, they don’t, nor should they.

Mr. Swift-Perez fled from a country whose leaders did not respect its citizens enough to give them a voice. He fled to a place where citizenship has value, and the citizen has rights. He worked for eight years toward this privilege, built a family, joined a community, and created a home. His work is valuable, as is that of countless other immigrants pursuing citizenship through naturalization. American law can and must respect this process and ensure that voting is a privilege held by, and only held by, the American citizen.

• The Honorable Ken Blackwell is Chairman of the Center for Election Integrity for the America First Policy Institute. Hogan Gidley serves as Director of the Center for Election Integrity for the America First Policy Institute. Jorge Martinez is the Hispanic Outreach Strategist & Spanish spokesperson for the America First Policy Institute. 

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