I am the proud son of an immigrant father and grandson of immigrant grandparents on both sides, all of whom escaped oppression in Eastern Europe to create a new life in America and, specifically, Portland, Maine.

As chair of the Portland City Council’s Economic Development Committee from 2015-2017, I took the lead in the creation of the Office of Economic Opportunity to better integrate Portland’s immigrant population into our economy. Councilor Justin Costa and I worked to develop a city fund to assist asylum seekers before state law was changed to allow state reimbursement.

Although I have the family immigrant experience and have worked as a city councilor to create opportunities for our immigrant residents, I strongly oppose the proposal by Mayor Ethan Strimling and Councilor Pious Ali to allow non-citizens to vote in city elections, for the following reasons:

Citizenship should equal privilege to vote. It is a fundamental concept throughout the U.S. that only with citizenship in America can a person have the privilege of voting. Otherwise, the value of citizenship is diminished. Many immigrants work hard to obtain American citizenship, in part to gain voting privilege.

I am sympathetic to the time it takes to become a U.S. citizen, and I understand the argument that some immigrants pay property taxes, and some have children in our schools, but those cannot be the only tests for allowing non-citizens to vote.

Few cities allow non-citizens to vote. The mayor cites that a handful of cities in the U.S. offer non-citizens voting privilege. What he doesn’t say is that it represents a minute percentage of all U.S. cities and towns.

Legal issues are not settled. The legal support for non-citizens voting has not been clearly established and likely will only be determined by the courts, even if the City Council sends the matter to the voters of Portland, and they vote to support the issue. This will trigger an expensive legal battle. As the possible defendant in such a case, the city would spend thousands of dollars to fight this challenge.

Having recently endured a contentious budget fight over spending for schools and city services, devoting significant tax revenues on this issue seems inappropriate.

In addition, there are numerous categories of immigrants. Which ones will be allowed to vote, and which not? How will the city clerk’s office manage this complex issue? I believe that some of these questions should be answered before moving forward with a referendum.

Issue was recently voted upon. We have already had a referendum on this matter just a few years ago, and it was defeated.

Other non-residents cannot vote. There are numerous individuals who pay property taxes in Portland, and others who send their children to Portland public schools yet live outside the city.

They have an interest in city affairs yet cannot vote. Hundreds of people reside in Portland for the summer or for many months a year and pay taxes. Should we also give them voting privilege?

This issue is ill-timed. For this to appear on the council agenda in the summer, just a few months before the November election, means that many members of the public are unaware of it.

An issue this important should be considered more carefully by the council and the public before being sent to referendum less than 90 days before the election.

I urge the City Council to reject this request to send the non-citizen voting issue to referendum in November, with little public discussion and no public demand from the people. And, if the council chooses to move forward with a referendum, I would hope the voters of Portland would say no and maintain voting privilege for citizens.