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Undocumented immigrants in New York could become 'state citizens' under new bill

NY Daily News - June 15, 2014, by Erin Durkin - Undocumented immigrants in New York could become “state citizens” with a slew of benefits from driver’s licenses to voting rights under a bill to be introduced Monday.

Advocates are set to announce the measure that would allow immigrants who aren’t U.S. citizens to become New York State citizens if they can prove they’ve lived and paid taxes in the state for three years and pledge to uphold New York laws — regardless of whether they’re in the country legally.

The state bill, which would apply to about 2.7 million New Yorkers, will face long odds in Albany, where even more modest immigration reforms have failed to pass.

People who secured state citizenship would be able to vote in state and local elections and run for state office. They could get a driver’s license, a professional license, Medicaid and other benefits controlled by the state. Immigrants would also be eligible for in-state tuition and financial aid.

The legislation would not grant legal authorization to work or change any other regulations governed by federal law.

“Obviously this is not something that’s going to pass immediately, but nothing as broad as this or as bold as this passes immediately,” said Sen. Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx), the sponsor in the state Senate.