UPDATED February 15 to include additional information about council members.

People who serve on city boards in Denton are no longer required to be U.S. citizens—or even lawful residents.

Denton City Council voted late last month to remove a requirement for residents serving on city boards and commissions to be registered voters, allowing noncitizens to participate.

The city said the purpose was to include the highest number of diverse members.

The vote was 5-2, with Council Members Jesse Davis and Vicki Byrd voting against the change.

Davis asked to add that only lawful residents can serve, as the positions are part of city government, but no other council member supported his amendment.

Noncitizens—regardless of immigration status—can now serve on all city boards, commissions, and committees except for the Public Utility Board (requirements for that board are set in the city charter, so a change must be approved by voters).

Proponents argued that just because residents aren’t citizens doesn’t mean they can’t contribute to the city.

Mariela Nuñez-Janes, a University of North Texas professor and advocate for undocumented immigrants, told council members she supported opening city board positions to noncitizens, saying there are “no existing pathways” for some foreign-born residents to acquire U.S. citizenship.

Councilmember Deb Armintor, an associate professor at UNT, told Texas Scorecard she first proposed the new policy. She voted for the change, along with Mayor Gerard Hudspeth and Councilmembers Brian Beck, Alison Maguire, and Paul Meltzer.

The council previously considered removing the qualified-voter requirement in November 2019, but a majority of members didn’t support the change then.

Some Denton citizens still don’t support it.

“When I found out about this, I was appalled,” Denton resident Vickie McGovern told Texas Scorecard. “Sadly, not enough people pay attention to local politics, which is how this crazy agenda keeps getting pushed through.”

“No, no, no,” said Paul Olmstead. “[If you’re] not a U.S. citizen, you can’t vote or participate in local, state, or federal government.”

Last May, the Dallas City Council proposed allowing noncitizens to serve on boards and commissions created by its city charter. The change required a charter amendment, which city voters rejected 65-35 percent.

Dallas removed its eligible-voter requirement for other city boards and commissions in 2020.

New York City just went a step further, allowing noncitizens to vote in municipal elections. More than 800,000 lawfully present noncitizens and undocumented “dreamers” will be able to influence city government. Fifteen municipalities across the country now allow noncitizens to vote in local city or school board elections.

Denton residents can contact their city council members about the new policy.

Armintor said last year she’s not running for re-election when her term expires this May. Mayor Hudspeth’s and Councilmember Meltzer’s seats are also on the May 2022 ballot. Both Hudspeth and Meltzer have filed to run for mayor.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.

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