New York Senators Try Again for State-Specific Citizenship; Bill Would Give Right to Grant Citizenship
August 28, 2015
by Nia Hamm
ALBANY, N.Y. – Headline-grabbing comments on immigration from 2016 presidential candidates such as Donald Trump have recharged the national debate. But while Congress drags its feet on immigration reform, some state lawmakers in New York are hoping recent interest in the issue draws support for a bill that would give New York the right to grant citizenship to some documented and undocumented residents.
“Everything that the bill is proposing are things that states in the entire country have the authority, constitutional, to grant access to and to limit access,” he said. “It’s not something that goes outside of the boundaries of what states have the authority to do.”
Non-citizens who receive legal status under the act would qualify for Medicaid coverage, professional licensing, tuition assistance and driver’s licenses, as well as state and local voting rights. Since Rivera first introduced the bill in 2013 and again this year, it has encountered fierce opposition from Republican legislators, who call it “an insult” to law-abiding New Yorkers.
Some legal experts also disagree with the premise of the bill. Theodore Ruthizer, who teaches immigration law at Columbia University Law School, said he believes it devalues the meaning of citizenship.
“When they haven’t even complied with U.S. immigration law requirements,” he said, “the idea that they should be rewarded by being able to serve on juries, and to vote in non-federal elections, I just think it’s really a very extreme idea.”
The bill outlines a process for non-citizens who can show proof of identity and have lived and paid taxes in the state for three years to apply for legal status. It has four other co-sponsors in the New York state Senate.
PHOTO: Some New York legislators hope to pass a bill that would allow the state to grant citizenship to immigrants. Credit: Steve White/freeimages.com
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