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New Bill Could Expand Rights For New York Illegal Immigrants

Ny State Senate

First Posted: 03/24/11 04:13 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:40 PM ET

The DREAM Act, a congressional bill that would've made it easier for the nations younger illegal immigrants to become US citizens, may have died in Washington, but it's making a small comeback in New York, thanks to a bill introduced in Albany by state Senator and Manhattan Democrat, Bill Perkins.

The bill stops short of granting illegal immigrants legal residency but would grant them some rights they don't currently possess.

The New York Times explains:

Unlike its federal counterpart, the bill would not offer those immigrants a path to legal residency. But it would give some of them certain rights now granted only to legal residents and citizens, including the ability to hold some state jobs -- a provision that appears to challenge federal laws that prohibit the hiring of undocumented workers.

The bill would allow illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses, a proposal that will undoubtedly reprise the fiery debates that compelled Gov. Eliot Spitzer to drop a similar plan in 2007.

In order to qualify for the bill's benefits, young illegal immigrants would have to "have arrived to the United States before the age of 16, be under the age of 35, have resided in New York State for at least two years, have obtained a high school diploma or GED equivalent from an American institution and have good moral character," according to the New York State Leadership Council.

Opposition to the bill will likely come from the likes of Republican State Senator Jim Tidesco who strongly opposed the driver's license provision in 2007.

The bill comes as nationwide states struggle to define their own immigration laws since Washington has failed to pass any comprehensive legislation to address the issue.

Some states, like Texas, are following Arizona's lead and taking tougher measures against illegal immigration- including allowing local law enforcement to inquire people of their immigration status and report it to federal authorities. Other states are taking more moderate approaches, like Utah, which recently passed a "Guest Worker" program that allows some undocumented immigrants to live and work in the state.

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Filed by Christopher Mathias  |