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San Francisco Elections Commission member is not 'illegal immigrant' | Fact check

The claim: An 'illegal immigrant' was appointed to San Francisco's elections board

A Feb. 18 Instagram video (direct link, archive link) shows a woman speaking about a new member of a government-appointed board in California.

"In case you missed it, the San Francisco City Council appointed an illegal immigrant to the Board of Elections," she says. "And this position will determine if illegals – sorry, migrants – will be able to vote."

The post garnered more than 300 likes in a week. Other versions of the claim were shared on Instagram and Facebook.

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Our rating: False

Kelly Wong, an immigrant rights advocate who was appointed to the San Francisco Elections Commission, is a noncitizen who immigrated to the U.S. legally.

Elections Commission member is a legal noncitizen, not 'illegal immigrant'

San Francisco passed Proposition C in November 2020, removing citizenship requirements for those serving on city boards, commissions and advisory bodies.

Wong, who is from Hong Kong, was appointed to the San Francisco Elections Commission on Feb. 14, San Francisco outlet KQED reported. The commission is a seven-person civilian body that oversees all public elections in the city and creates policies for the city's Department of Elections.

Wong did not immigrate to the U.S. illegally as the woman in the Instagram video claims. She holds a U.S. visa, the San Francisco Standard reported.

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Aaron Peskin, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the official who administered Wong's swearing-in ceremony, told USA TODAY the claim is false.

"She is here legally and is allowed to work and pay taxes," Peskin said in an email.

Wong immigrated to the U.S. in 2019 to pursue graduate studies, KQED reported.

Wong doesn't hold power to create new voting laws

The post claims Wong will have the power to determine whether those who immigrate illegally can vote, but her new role has no such authority, said John Arntz, director of the San Francisco Department of Elections.

"The Elections Commission does not set laws regarding elections in San Francisco," Arntz said in an email. "Instead, laws are enacted through the legislative actions of the Board of Supervisors, and voters may approve laws placed on ballots from the successful circulation of petitions."

Ron Hayduk, a political science professor at San Francisco State University, told USA TODAY something similar, saying the duty of Wong and the other election commissioners is to "oversee the implementation of laws," not to make the laws.

"It is the (San Francisco) Board of Supervisors and mayor – or ballot measures passed by a majority of voters – that creates and sets laws," Hayduk said in an email.

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Bill Hing, a professor of law and migration studies at the University of San Francisco, told USA TODAY that the categories of individuals who can vote are determined by state and federal law, and that the commission cannot change the fact that voting in most San Francisco elections requires the voter to be a U.S. citizen.

Hing noted that the only exception to this general rule was created by a proposition passed by the city in 2016, which granted noncitizens with children in public schools the right to vote in school board elections.

USA TODAY reached out to the users who shared the post for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

Lead Stories also debunked the claim.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Legal noncitizen elected to San Francisco election board | Fact check