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NY Mulls Over State Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants

Immigration advocates are calling for New York to become the first state in the nation to offer ‘state citizenship’ to undocumented immigrants.

Under a bill introduced in the state legislature on Monday, these ‘state citizens’ could be eligible for a number of benefits including a driver’s license and voting rights in the Empire state.

Immigrants, legal under federal laws or not, would be able to apply for state citizenship after three years of proof that they paid state income taxes and agree to a pledge to abide with the laws of the state. Approximately 2.7 million New Yorkers, living both in New York City and other areas of the state, would be impacted by the law.

While a similar measure in Arizona and other states have been overturned or deemed an infringement on federal rights, Peter Markowitz, a professor at New York’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law insists New York’s bill, which will not grant the right to work or change any federal mandate on immigration status, is within the scope of the state’s jurisdiction and is“exercising a firmly-established, constitutionally-enshrined authority of the state to determine the boundaries of its own political community.”

“The very nature of our dual-sovereign federal structure,” Markowitz said, “means that New York gets to decide who are New Yorkers.”

Democratic state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, who’s sponsoring the legislation, also says that it is about time that such laws were enacted across the nation. “We have a bill here that could be a model of what we need to do across the country.”

Despite enthusiasm by some members of the legislature and immigration activists, though, most agree that the bill, dubbed the New York is Home Act, will not be passed anytime soon in New York.

“Obviously this is not something that’s going to pass immediately, but nothing as broad as this or as bold as this passes immediately,” said Rivera, who represents an immigrant heavily Bronx district in New York City.

Photo Credit: Boss Tweed (Immigration Rally- NYC)

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.