In the midst of the immigration reform debate, a New York lawmaker has recently come out with his goal of granting voting rights to undocumented immigrants living in the state. The sponsor of this bill, known as the New York is Home Act, is New York state Senator Gustavo Rivera. As reported by Reuters, the bill allows for undocumented immigrants to have many citizenship rights, “including the right to vote in local and state elections.”
This bill is considered to be the first bill in the U.S. that offers such extensive rights to undocumented immigrants. While it is expansive, the immigrant must be able to show that he or she has lived in New York and paid taxes in the state for a minimum of three years.
According to Rivera, there are approximately 3 million people living in the state of New York who live here and consider New York to be their home. However, these people cannot “fully participate in civic, political, and economic life,” he said.
Rivera has said that the bill is in “response to the stagnation of immigration reform efforts in the U.S. and Congress.” A proposed immigration reform bill was passed in the Senate last summer, but never made it past the House. Since then, there has been little movement in the area of immigration reform, but those advocating for the legislation remain hopeful.
As Rivera explained, with Congress sitting still on immigration reform, it's time for the states to start making decisions and change some laws.
In addition to showing that the immigrant has lived and paid taxes in New York for a minimum of three years, the immigrant must also take an oath promising that he or she would uphold the state's constitution and laws, along with agreeing to serve on a jury, if called upon to do so.
Once the immigrant has fulfilled the requirements, he or she would receive a type of state citizenship. This state citizenship would permit the individual to have access to state tuition assistance and health insurance programs. In addition, the immigrant could apply for both driver's and professional licenses, along with the right to vote in state and local elections.
While other states have passed bills that relate to driver's licenses and tuition assistance, there has been no state that has offered “such a broad package for its non-citizens,” Rivera said. While it is unclear as to whether the bill will get passed in New York during the current legislative session, Rivera hopes that the bill will at least bring about some discussion related to immigration reform and current policy.
What do you think of Rivera's proposed plan for the state of New York? Is it possible for a bill like this to get passed in 2014? Could Arizona propose a similar plan?
If you have questions related to your immigration status and are seeking legal counsel, do not hesitate to contact my office. My associates and I have helped many clients in southern Arizona with their immigration matters and we can help you, too.