I wonder how many Utahns are aware of a quiet problem of taxation without representation that exists in this state?
According to the American Immigration Council, over 8% of Utah’s population are immigrants. Immigrant-led households pay over $700 million in federal and over $400 million in state taxes each year. Immigrants pump over $4 billion in spending into the Utah economy every year. Yet, because of a 1996 federal law (the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act), a huge percentage of those people are not allowed to vote: noncitizen documented aliens.
Whilst the 1996 act does not prohibit noncitizens from voting in state or local elections, no state has allowed noncitizens to vote in state elections since Arkansas became the last state to outlaw noncitizen voting in 1926.
I hail from England originally, having moved here for my job in 2001. I’m here legally as a permanent resident alien. I pay my taxes, I have no criminal record and no minor offences – not even a speeding ticket. Yet, because Utah law has chosen to prevent me from having a voice, that means I have no say in where my taxes are spent.
It also means I have no representative. Whilst my address might fall in a specific representative’s area by geographical boundary, I was never offered the chance to vote for that person. Nor will I be allowed to vote for their successor. This means I have no voice locally, or in Washington.
This year there is going to be a national census. I’m legally required to give my information to be included in the census, so my existence as a documented immigrant will be counted. Federal, state and local governments all want to know I’m here, and are quite happy to take my taxes, but don’t want me to be able to influence their direction.
Worse, it is actually illegal for me to vote in Utah, or to contribute to any ballot initiative or political group. I could be punished by fines, imprisonment and even deportation for any of those things.
Is this voter suppression, or taxation without representation? Or both? It’s definitely discriminatory.
A solution to this issue would be to become a naturalized citizen, however I’m not ready to renounce my British citizenship. That leaves the option of dual citizenship which can become overly complex and has risks.
Whilst dual citizenship is allowed both in England and in the United States (since 1967), the U.S. government has remained disdainful of this practice. In fact, candidates for U.S. citizenship through naturalization are forced to renounce their previous citizenship at the United States naturalization ceremony.
I wonder how the political map of Utah would change if all noncitizen taxpayers were allowed to vote? After all, if we are contributing to the government coffers, shouldn’t we be entitled to express a legal opinion on how and where our money is being spent?
I wonder what would need to happen to get state law changed?
If you’re an American citizen reading this, how would you feel about being legally required to be counted in the census, and to pay taxes, but at the same time being told you could be jailed for expressing an opinion through voting?
I would start a ballot initiative to try to get some traction on this. Alas, that’s also illegal.
Chris Longhurst, Salt Lake City, trains commercial and military pilots.