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A legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay

Week of October 6, 2014

Radical Legislation Would Give Illegal Aliens Right to
Vote, Grant State Citizenship without Procedure

It is important to remember that we are a country of immigrants and that all people
should have the opportunity for a better life. Our history and heritage derives from the millions
who have immigrated to the United States and became U.S. Citizens. Each year, naturalization
ceremonies are held throughout the United States where foreign citizens that meet the eligibility
requirements for citizenship officially become a citizen of the United States of America. Earlier
in the year, at a naturalization ceremony in Syracuse, 42 individuals from 24 different countries
became U.S. citizens. One man who participated in the ceremony and was granted citizenship
told local reporters he pursued citizenship for 5 years. In the interview, it was clear that he was
proud of what he accomplished. Obtaining citizenship can be a long path for many, however, the
rewards of becoming a citizen make it well worth it.

I bring this up because lately there has been much discussion on illegal immigration in
our country – and rightfully so. Generally, immigration matters fall under the jurisdiction of the
federal government. However, a common trend has emerged where state legislators are trying to
influence immigration policy and grant rights and privileges reserved to U.S. citizens to illegal
immigrants. Several years ago, former Governor Eliot Spitzer proposed allowing illegal
immigrants the right to obtain a New York State Drivers’ License. This proposal drew ire from
many. Fortunately, it was never implemented.

Another bill is the Dream Act. This bill would allow illegal immigrants the opportunity
to receive funding under New York’s college tuition and scholarship program. The concern is
that by allowing those who are not legally residing in New York to receive tuition assistance,
there will be less funding available for those who are New York citizens. This is of particular
concern in light of the fact that there is an increasing pool of applicants for New York’s tuition
assistance program and because of the increased cost of college. Rather than the Dream Act, a
better solution would be to allow the creation of a private fund that could provide financial aid to
illegal immigrant children without using tax dollars.

Additionally, I want to make you aware of the radical proposal the “New York is Home
Act.” Proposed by two New York City legislators, this bill attempts to bypass federal
immigration policy by creating “state citizenship.” Under their plan, illegal immigrants would
have voting rights and the ability to run for public office. They could also obtain a drivers’
license, receive financial aid through the state and obtain a professional license (this could
include licenses for professions such as a doctor, mental health counselor, certified public
accountant and other professions). The criteria for becoming a New York State citizen is fairly
nonexistent and it appears that almost any illegal immigrant would be eligible for “state
citizenship.” One of the sponsors of the bill estimates that 3 million illegal immigrants would be
eligible for the newly created citizenship pathway. This legislation is so broad it essentially does
away with any requirements to become a citizen. There are good reasons to why we have
immigration laws and why immigration policy should be set by the federal government.
National security would be on the top of that list. States should not impose what they believe
should be naturalization requirements, or as in this case, almost no requirement.

In two weeks, another group of proud immigrants hailing from around the world will
gather at a Naturalization Ceremony in Syracuse to become our newest American citizens. The
hard work and dedication these individuals have shown will be rewarded with the greatest gift
that we could offer to citizens – freedom. We should celebrate our immigrant heritage. We
should not pass state laws that make a mockery out of U.S. citizenry.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would
like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office
can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at
barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling (315) 598-5185.
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