Support Immigrant Voting Rights, Benefit Access

Support Immigrant Voting Rights, Benefit Access

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, said he supported the "New York is Home Act" introduced by Senator Rivera to provide voting rights and other benefits to undocumented residents. 

The Green Party has long supported allowing non-citizens to vote in local elections. Many democracies allow local residents to vote in local elections regardless of the citizenship status. At the beginning of the 20th century, at least 22 states and territories permitted non-U.S. citizens to vote in local, state, and national elections. New York City also extended voting to non-U.S. citizens for certain elections. 

"The Green Party believes that all people should be treated with dignity and that they are entitled to basic human rights where they live. Immigrants are a vital contributor to our local and state economies. We need comprehensive reform of immigration laws in Congress, but New York should provide leadership where it can," said Hawkins.

Greens would also include nonresidents in any universal health care program in order to reduce overall health expenditures, since non-covered residents usually get treated in expensive emergency rooms. 

The bill that would allow immigrants who aren’t U.S. citizens to become New York state citizens if they can prove they have lived and paid taxes in the state for three years and pledge to uphold New York laws, regardless of whether they are in the country legally. The bill would apply to about 2.7 million New Yorkers who lack citizenship.

 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 issued by the state, and Medicaid and other benefits controlled by the state. Immigrants would also be eligible for in-state tuition and financial aid, and would be protected from discrimination based on their status.

The bill's memo of support notes that for documented and undocumented residents, New York is their home – and in many cases, it is the only home they have ever known. These residents want the same things as other residents: good schools, high-quality jobs, safe communities, and a bright future for their kids.

Hawkins also supports the the DREAM Act, which would help undocumented students afford college. State efforts to offer driver’s licenses have failed so far.

Backers the New York is Home Act say it will prompt efforts in other states, similar to how states led the way on gay marriage. Talks on comparable bills already underway in Illinois, Oregon, and Maryland.

The bill is estimated to cost taxpayers $106 to $173 million a year, while generating $145 million in new economic activity and saving drivers $100 million in insurance premiums. 

Hawkins will also cut down on wage theft that often targets undocumented low-income workers.

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