Defending People's Rights and Freedoms

New York Considering Citizenship for Undocumented

Lawmakers in New York are seeking to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in New York. If granted the new proposal which was introduced in Albany on June 16, would allow documented immigrants who are NOT US citizens and undocumented immigrants living in New York to vote and run for office in New York among other benefits. The proposal requires anyone seeking the benefit to provide proof of identity and New York residency for at least three years during which period state taxes must be paid.

The proposed legislation which is called the New York Is Home Act would provide benefits such as Medicaid coverage, professional license, tuition assistance, driver’s licenses, and state grants to persons who are granted New York citizenship even if that person is NOT qualified for Federal citizenship or U.S. residency.

Any immigration benefit conferred by a state would however, be preempted by federal law to the extent their is a conflict. Even if the long-shot measure is passed any undocumented person who obtains legal New York State residence would still be excluded from federal immigration benefits that he or she is NOT qualified for. For instance, an undocumented person who obtains legal residence in a state would still be governed by federal law which prohibits aliens from working in the United States without a work permit.

Obtaining legal residence in a state is however, expected to significantly bolster the chances of adjustment of status for some categories of persons who are illegally present in the United States. The federal government may also have a harder time deporting an undocumented immigrant who carries New York citizenship. It is expected that an undocumented immigrant who has been granted state citizenship and does NOT have a significant criminal record would have a greater standing and would be a lower priority for deportation enforcement.

Already, several other states are extending immigration benefits to undocumented immigrants in a piecemeal manner. 10 states, already are making driver’s license available to undocumented immigrants and at least 18 states have extended in-state college tuition rates to undocumented high-school graduates.