New York state Sen. Guestavo Rivera wants to pass legislation to give illegal immigrants the right to vote in local and state elections, Reuters reports.
In terms of the broad benefits available to non-citizens, this bill is the first of its kind in America.
The main objective of the New York Is Home Act, according to Rivera, is to integrate illegal immigrants, who are estranged from participation in civic, economic and political life. The legislation not only gives illegal immigrants the right to vote, but establishes a kind of second-tiered citizenship on a state level, in which illegal immigrants can apply for tuition assistance, health insurance and driver’s and professional licenses, among other benefits.
“It’s mind-boggling,” says Michael Olivas, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center who specializes in immigration law, according to Businessweek. “I don’t believe there’s ever been a serious attempt to codify so many benefits and opportunities.”
But Rivera is confident that his model is right for New York, and right as a model for the rest of the country, although he admits that the bill “certainly will not pass this session,” comparing it to the development of same-sex marriage legislation.
According to the language in the bill, so long as non-citizens can demonstrate that they have lived and paid taxes in New York for three years, they are eligible for the broad spectrum of benefits available under the legislation.
In order to obtain these benefits, non-citizens would have to take an oath to uphold the constitution of the state and agree to serve on a jury, if requested.
As inspiration for sponsoring the bill, Rivera pointed to concerns about the stagnation of immigration reform in Congress: “With failure at the national level on comprehensive immigration reform, the question we have asked is what can states do?” Rivera said.
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