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Cambridge Immigrant Voting Rights Campaign Records, 1992-2003

Identifier: 041

Collection Overview

This collection contains pamphlets, flyers, newspaper articles, lobbying packets, research on and historical material about immigrant voting rights in Massachusetts, the US and the world. The campaign materials like pamphlets and flyers have been translated into Haitian Creole, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Korean. Immigrant testimony exists in 4 Word Newsletter in the 2003 Lobbying packet and quotes Cambridge residents from the 1994 Voting Rights Forum in the 1994 folder. The brochures list which elected Cambridge officials voted for or against the 1999 and 2000 petitions. Additionally, the collection contains campaign materials against Ron Unz from 2002.


  • 1992-2003


Access to Collection

This collection is open to researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

The material in this collection is subject to copyright and intellectual property restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to understand and observe copyright law and to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyright. Researchers must obtain written permission from the copyright holder(s) if they wish to publish materials from this collection. Questions concerning copyright and permission to publish should be directed to the Cambridge Room, Cambridge Public Library Archives and Special Collections.


The Cambridge Immigrant Voting Rights Campaign, a grassroots movement win the right of all residents of Cambridge regardless of citizenship status to be able to vote in local elections, grew out of struggles to protect and defend housing and other basic services for immigrants. Founded in 1993, the Campaign was as an extension of the Cambridge Free Eviction Zone, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting affordable housing for low-income residents. Other Cambridge based and local immigrant rights and civic groups endorsed the platform.

The principles of the Campaign are founded on the idea that many stake holders in Cambridge who pay taxes, abide by laws, send children to the Cambridge Public Schools, own businesses, and rent or own properties are without formal representation. The 1990 census showed that 15% of Cambridge residents were non citizens and 20% were foreign born; the 2000 City Census recorded 20% of Cambridge’s population as non-citizens. The Campaign notes that immigrants often live in Cambridge for many years before becoming citizens. Although Massachusetts and the U.S. Constitutions limit the right to vote to citizens for state and national offices, local Massachusetts communities can pass home rule petitions to ask the state legislature to give them the right to allow all residents to vote, regardless of citizenship status. The Cambridge Voting Rights Campaign followed this law to gain the following political results:

• June 1999, the Cambridge School Committee decided in favor of immigrant voting rights for school board elections in a 5 to 1 decision.

• November 6, 2000, the Cambridge City Council voted to submit a home rule petition to the state legislature in a 5 to 3 decision.

• 2003, the City of Cambridge home rule petition was filed at the State House by Representative Alice Wolf and Representative Jarrett Barrios.

• February 2005, representatives re-filed home rule petition. No definitive action was taken.

Cambridge’s move to allow immigrant voting rights came two years after Amherst, Massachusetts passed its own home rule petition in 1998. It was approved by the House Election Committee but never reached the floor for a vote. In 2006, Wayland approved its own home rule petition. The three towns are awaiting action by the Massachusetts legislature.

In 2000, the Campaign came out against Ron Unz, Silicon Valley millionaire, who in 1998 spearheaded the passage of California’s Proposition 227, designed to ban bilingual education as an instructional method. After Arizona passed similar legislation two years later, Unz brought his campaign to Colorado and Massachusetts. He received enough signatures for a similar initiative to appear on the November 2002 ballot in Massachusetts, known as ballot question #2. The initiative passed by 68% and bilingual education was banned in the state.

The Cambridge Campaign is affiliated with the Immigrant Voting Project, a resource network dedicated to promoting discussion about the practice of allowing immigrants to vote in local elections.


.2 Linear Feet

.2 Cubic Feet

1 boxes (half Hollinger box.)

100 Items

Language of Materials


Organization of Collection

Approx. 100 items arranged chronologically.

Custodial History

Donated by Marla Erlien. There is no known date of the donation.

Processing Information

Processed in June 2013 and encoded in October 2015 by Alyssa Pacy.


Cambridge Immigrant Voting Rights Campaign Records, 1992-2003 041
Alyssa Pacy
June 27, 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge Room, Cambridge Public Library Archives and Special Collections Repository

Cambridge Public Library
449 Broadway
Cambridge MA 02138 USA