With still no sign of the issue of immigration reform being addressed by the House of Representatives in the near future, one New York senator has decided to take matters into his own hands. Democratic state senator Gustavo Rivera recently introduced the New York Is Home Act, which would give non-citizen residents many of the privileges of citizenship, including the right to run or vote in elections at state level.
To be able to qualify, a non-citizen immigrant would need to show that he or she has lived in New York and paid taxes for a minimum of three years. Provided the application was successful, the immigrant would receive a form of legal status that would include eligibility for a driver’s license, Medicaid, tuition assistance and professional licensing.
“Nearly three million people in the state of New York currently reside here and make New York their home, but can’t fully participate in civic, political and economic life,” Rivera says. The bill is an ambitious one; while other states have allowed non-citizens to be able to get in-state tuition or some other form of tuition assistance, none have even tried to introduce an immigration bill, never mind one so comprehensive.
“It’s mind-boggling,” notes Michael Olivas, a University of Houston Law Center professor. “I don’t think there’s ever been a serious attempt to codify so many benefits and opportunities.” Some critics say the bill violates federal authority with regard to citizenship statutes, but New York law professor Peter Markowitz told Bloomberg Businessweek that the bill is completely legitimate.