There’s no doubt that immigration reform is the third rail of American politics. One need not look any further than the primary election loss of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor – a proponent of immigration reform.

As far as we here in New Jersey are concerned, we’ve already taken baby steps in giving illegals (or at least the children of illegals) easier access to services previously denied them. Such as the DREAM Act in which the children of illegals who’ve lived here at an early age and have attended high school would be able to pay in-state rates to state colleges.

However, just like a cannon shot off the bow of a boat comes this from our neighbors across the river,
New York State.

A state senator there is hoping to get a bill passed that would, in essence, give illegals in New York the status of “citizens of the state” – allowing them to obtain drivers licenses among other benefits.

And above all – the right to vote!

New York state Sen. Guestavo Rivera wants to pass legislation to give illegal immigrants the right to vote in local and state elections, Reuters reports.

The main objective of the New York Is Home Act, according to Rivera, is to integrate illegal immigrants, who are estranged from participation in civic, economic, and political life.

The legislation not only gives illegal immigrants the right to vote, but establishes a kind of second-tiered citizenship on a state level, in which illegal immigrants can apply for tuition assistance, health insurance, and driver’s and professional licenses, among other benefits.

“It’s mind-boggling,” says Michael Olivas, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center who specializes in immigration law, according to Businessweek. “I don’t believe there’s ever been a serious attempt to codify so many benefits and opportunities.”

But Rivera is confident that his model is right for New York, and right as a model for the rest of the country, although he admits that the bill “certainly will not pass this session,” comparing it to the development of same-sex marriage legislation.

According to the language in the bill, so long as non-citizens can demonstrate that they have lived and paid taxes in New York for three years, they are eligible for the broad spectrum of benefits available under the legislation.

In order to obtain these benefits, non-citizens would have to take an oath to uphold the constitution of the state and agree to serve on a jury if requested.

As inspiration for the sponsoring the bill, Rivera pointed to concerns about the stagnation of immigration reform in Congress. “With failure at the national level on comprehensive immigration reform, the question we have asked is what can states do?” Rivera said.

Here’s what I found interesting. A caller to Jim’s show this morning stated that to be a citizen of one state gives you the status of being a citizen of all states.

Does the proposed legislation take that into account?

My guess is that it’s an “end-round” to the logjam in Congress regarding immigration reform.

Granting illegals the cherished right to vote in elections is clearly a non starter – assuming there’s a “starter” in any of this legislation.

He is correct about one thing. It will start a conversation about the ongoing debate about what to do with folks who’ve jumped the fence.

However, I don’t see how anyone in his or her right mind could go along with his proposal.

Should illegal immigrants be granted “citizens of the state” status?