The Madness of the King

Cross-posted to Patreon.

His name is Father David Boase, and he’s about to lose everything because of a simple mistake.

Father Boase is from England, but 14 years ago he received a call to serve as priest to an Episcopal church in Alton, Illinois. He moved here and found that he loved the United States. Whether we deserve that love remains to be seen.

He served his church faithfully and well for ten years, bought a home and paid his taxes. He retired, but continued to serve the church as an interim priest for other parishes, including mine. He is an amateur actor as well, and delighted audiences and congregations alike with his wry wit.

Do you know how hard it is to get a roomful of Episcopalians to laugh during services?

Father Boase made one mistake. Thirteen years ago, he was renewing his license at the DMV and the clerk asked him if he wanted to register to vote. This is after he had presented his British passport to the clerk, by the way.

Of course he should have said no. After all, only citizens can vote, right?

Wrong.

In Missouri, non-citizens in the process of becoming citizens are allowed to vote under certain circumstances. That’s also the case in Alabama, and ten cities in Maryland, and many other places. Bills to allow non-citizens to vote in certain circumstances have been introduced in many other states, including Massachusetts, Maine, Texas and more.

In New York, bills were submitted over and over, and non-citizens who had children in public schools were permitted to vote on school board elections until 2002, when school boards were no longer elected. San Francisco currently allows non-citizens to vote in certain elections. Not for nothing, but in multiple European Union countries, non-citizens can vote in local elections as well.

After all, resident immigrants may own property here, send their kids to public schools, own and operate businesses subject to taxation. “No taxation without representation” was a slogan once upon a time, wasn’t it?

Non-citizen voting is widespread throughout the world, but of course, we in the U.S. are so conditioned to think of immigrants as “other” that the very concept caused the Kansas City Star’s comment section to explode with the most horrific bigotry and vile insinuations – the worst of the internet in one spot. I’m not providing a link.

And as this piece from the L.A. Times points out, non-citizens voted from the beginning of our republic until the anti-immigrant fervor in the early 1900s caused its elimination from most states’ laws. Of course, Mr. Arellano is arguing from the standpoint of bigotry.

No one can make a case on Father Boase’s part for bigotry: he is an educated white male. And he made a mistake. So did the DMV clerk, and he refuses to point fingers and name names, because it was a long time ago and he doesn’t want to get anyone in trouble.

Because he did vote. Once. Then a parishioner told him he probably wasn’t allowed to do that, and he never voted again.

Instead, he made his second mistake: He applied for citizenship. He loves this country, loves his community and has a home with friends here. He’s part of a community and has entirely made it better.

So we’re kicking him out.

The immigration officials processing his citizenship application found out about the vote and referred him for deportation. He will not be fighting it, he says – on the advice of his attorney, who I presume knows what he or she is talking about. If Father Boase leaves voluntarily, he can reapply to return within a few years. If he fights it on the basis of sanity and common sense, he could be deported and unable to return for 10 years.

So much for due process. Even asking for common sense carries a 10-year penalty.

It will cause him devastating loss, not only personally but financially. Priests aren’t wealthy, and he is retired, living on a small pension. The legal bills will be difficult, and he will have to sell almost everything he owns to move back to England with no support system and no job – not even a place to live. Friends have created a GoFundMe to help with his expenses, while others are writing to Senator Duckworth and begging the world for a moment of common sense..

I have traditionally stayed away from political writing since becoming a journalist, because one cannot maintain neutrality when wading into the fray. I can’t criticize a policy one day and then write objectively about it the next. (Or, rather, I can, but no one would take it seriously.)

I’m not a full-time reporter anymore. I’m still working freelance, and that limits what I can say or do – to an extent.

But on this story, I am not objective, as Father Boase is a friend. I will not be covering it for any news organization. Thus, I can say that the emperor has no clothes, and dare anyone to tell me otherwise.

Father Boase does not deserve to be deported. He poses no danger to our society. He made a mistake that others have made, and face consequences just as ludicrous: a woman in Texas is serving five years in prison because she voted, not realizing that her prior fraud conviction made it illegal for her to vote. She is literally serving more time for voting than she did for inflating tax returns as a tax preparer nine years ago.

As immigration lawyer Marleen Suarez said, Father Boase is an educated, English-speaking man. Imagine how hard this is for an immigrant who isn’t fluent in the language yet, and doesn’t understand the labyrinthine requirements placed on him – but faces terrible penalties for the slightest mistake and may be returning to a dangerous, life-threatening situation.

It’s madness. We have a hard enough time getting our natural-born citizens to get off their couches and vote, with turnout of barely 61 percent in the last and most contentious election, and yet we will tell the immigrant residents who live here, pay taxes and are subject to our laws that they have no voice in making them.

Except, of course, when you’re told you can vote, and do, and then we say, “Oops, never mind.”

If we are to rethink immigration in the United States, let us rethink it in terms of common sense and not some backward reactionary ‘Merica nonsense that aims to exclude all “others” by knee-jerk response. America is still a good place – at least, it can be. We should be honored and proud that so many people want to come be a part of it, and are willing to undergo the endless nonsense we place in their way. Being born here is a happy accident of fate. Moving here is a choice, and one we should celebrate, not deny.

Let it begin with allowing a good man and faithful priest to remain here, in the land he loves, and become a citizen as well. Put an end to the madness of the king.

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