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'New York is Home Act' would offer immigrants greatly expanded rights

Even though Congress has failed to enact any sort of comprehensive immigration reform, changes are nevertheless taking place on the state level. For instance, multiple states have enacted legislation granting driver's licenses and/or tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants and non-citizen residents.

While these moves have been lauded by immigrant advocates as a sign of real progress, a lawmaker here in New York has recently proposed a first-of-its-kind bill that, if passed, would cause these same advocates to stand up and cheer.

The New York is Home Act, sponsored by state Senator Gustavo Rivera, would grant the millions of undocumented immigrants and non-citizen residents currently living in the Empire State all of the rights and opportunities that accompany state "citizenship."

"We have failed with immigration reform nationally and what we want is to provide an opportunity for the almost 3 million people who live and contribute to the public treasury in our state to take part in its political, civic and economic life," he said.

How exactly would Rivera's bill accomplish this ambitious objective?

The language of the bill indicates that undocumented immigrants and non-citizen residents living in New York would be granted a document enabling them to do everything from vote in local/state elections, run for public office and secure state tuition assistance to obtain driver's licenses, acquire professional licenses and secure access to health insurance programs.

In order to secure these benefits derived from state "citizenship," undocumented immigrants and non-citizen residents would have to do the following:

  • Demonstrate that they have lived in New York for at least three years and paid taxes for the same amount of time.
  • Take an oath swearing to abide by state laws and uphold the state constitution.
  • Promise to serve on a jury if called upon. 

Rivera, who introduced the bill on Monday, indicated that he didn't expect the New York is Home Act to be passed by fellow lawmakers during the current legislative session, which is actually scheduled to close today. Rather, he expressed his desire for the legislation to spark an ongoing debate regarding the ability of the states to enact their own meaningful immigration reform in the absence of Congressional action.

It will be interesting to see if Rivera's legislation is revived during the next session.

What are your thoughts on the New York is Home Act? Is it something you would like to passed in the future?

If you have questions regarding citizenship, visas, employment immigration or any other important immigration-related issue, consider speaking with an experienced attorney to learn more about your options.

Source: Reuters, "N.Y. lawmaker aims to give voting rights to illegal immigrants," Curtis Skinner, June 16, 2014; Fox News Latino, "Bill would offer state "citizenship" to immigrants in New York," June 16, 2014    

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