Immigration reform protestors in New Jersey.
People hold up banners while they take part in a rally to demand that Congress fix the broken immigration system at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey, April 6, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

New York state senator Gustavo Rivera, Democrat from the Bronx, presented to the state legislature on Monday a bill which would make many of the state’s 2.7 million undocumented immigrants eligible for “state citizenship,” a newly created legal status that would afford them a host of benefits usually reserved for US citizens. According to the New York Daily News, the New York Is Home Act would apply to noncitizens -- whether they currently have a legal status or not -- who can prove they’ve lived and paid taxes in the state for three years and pledge to uphold state laws.

If they can do that, they would be allowed to vote and run for (local and state-level) office, receive benefits like health insurance programs, professional licenses, tuition assistance for students, and driver’s licenses in addition to serving on juries, according to Haaretz. Lawmakers in both red and blue states have increasingly taken up the issue of immigration in recent years as prospects for a federal reform languish. Most legislation has dealt with driver’s licenses or tuition rates for undocumented immigrants. But Rivera’s bill lays out an unprecedented package of benefits.

The assemblyman acknowledged in an interview with Businessweek that the proposal “certainly will not pass this session,” but says he hopes the bill will spark a conversation on the national level and serve as a “model of what we need to do across the country,” comparing the cause to that of same-sex marriage. The site notes, however, that one of the most important benefits of citizenship would still be denied those who qualify under the legislation: work authorization.

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