by Ling-Mei Wong
Mass. Attorney General Martha Coakley visited Chinatown for a Community Conversations town hall on Jan. 14 at the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center. She discussed education, voting rights and diversity.
Representation was a recurring theme. “It’s important to me in civil rights and staffing to be inclusive,” Coakley said. “It’s what makes Boston and Massachusetts so rich. The history of our state and future is to welcome newcomers to our state.”
Coakley was elected attorney general in 2007 and was district attorney of Middlesex County for eight years before then. Her work includes implementing prevention programs in schools and communities for public safety.
“If we do not educate kids and make sure they’re safe, we are going to pay for that in an expensive way in the future,” Coakley said.
Coakley voiced her support for bilingual ballots and voting rights for legal permanent residents, who have not yet become citizens.
Tianyu Zhang, a permanent resident from China, said, “I’d really like to have a voice like other Chinese immigrants. … I want to have input, as I’m paying the same tax dollars.”
Coakley noted that federal legislation took time, but said local communities should be able to allow permanent residents to vote. Cambridge, Newton and Amherst have introduced bills to allow foreign nationals in the process of immigration to vote. While similar legislation has passed in California and New York, the Mass. legislature has not yet approved these municipal bills.
“You want to vote; so many people born here take that right for granted,” Coakley said. “You appreciate you have to work for it.”
This post is also available in: Chinese