If local governments began to grant citizenship, many argue it will lead to immigration reform at a national level.
While debate has proved to be slowly moving on providing amnesty to illegal immigrants in legislation known as the DREAM Act, supporters say allowing state and local governments to provide citizenship on a smaller level could lead to federal change.
“Washington, D.C. has proven time and again that it’s incapable of any type of immigration action,” Make the Road New York Lead Organizer Daniel Coates told the Queens Chronicle. “States like New York with large immigrant populations need to step up and lead the national discussion.”
Others, however, think it has to be the other way around.
“Only once the DREAM Act is passed can we begin to examine opportunities for additional rights expansions for New York’s immigrants through legislation,” New York assemblyman Fransisco Moya said in a statement, according to the Queens Chronicle.
The DREAM Act would allow illegal aliens to stay in the country without the threat of being deported. Once passed, states could provide them with similar rights to those of citizens, according to Moya.
A sponsor of legislation to enact local government citizenship in New York, State Sen. Gustavo Rivera told Bloomberg his legislation could start a precedent.
“We have a bill here that could be a model of what we need to do across the country,” Rivera said, referring to The New York Is Home Act, which was proposed last summer.
States passing similar legislation, however, would not force the federal level to be reformed. While illegal immigrants could be considered New York state citizens, their status of immigration does not change at the federal level, meaning they would not be able to vote in federal elections nor permitted to legally work in the United States, Bloomberg reported.
Nonetheless, legislation like that proposed in New York could provide a discussion of immigration surrounding family values, economic productivity, and societal inclusion, sliding the national level toward immigration reform, according to The New York Times.
“This legislation will move us toward a real solution to our nation’s immigration quagmire,” Cardozo School of Law professor Peter Markowitz wrote in the Times.
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