Image copyright Reuters Image caption New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
New York has moved to allow immigrants who are not citizens to vote in local elections in a bill being considered by the state’s legislature.
The bill has the backing of several Republican and Democratic leaders, who say it will increase civic participation in the state.
However, it has met opposition from critics of illegal immigration who say it is undermining the American way of life.
A law passed in California last month allows illegal immigrants who have been in the state for five years to cast ballots in municipal elections.
The New York bill, which is backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, allows anyone who is not a US citizen to apply for a non-immigrant visa that allows them to travel on their own.
They must commit to working for a non-profit group or non-profit business, meet certain residency requirements and agree to be monitored to see that they comply with the terms of their temporary status.
Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, said the measure will allow people to be proud of voting.
“Inclusive democracy is key to a healthy democracy, and the bill allows not only citizens to vote, but immigrants, legal and otherwise, who have the right to vote by the US Constitution,” she said.
But not everyone is happy with the change. Represenatives of the New York State Catholic Conference, and New York Right to Life, said they would seek to have the bill voted down because it would lead to fraud.
The Rev. Kevin Sullivan, President of the New York Catholic Conference, said that although New York state had a reputation for great immigration reform, in practice the more liberal laws are frequently circumvented by criminal foreign nationals.
“We should not permit legal residents with no links to our state to vote. The concept of citizenship is so important, so fundamental,” Rev. Sullivan said.
It is not the first time that New York has tried to implement new voting rules in the hope of boosting turnout at elections. In 2013, the state was unable to get its attempt to allow non-citizens to vote in mayoral elections passed by the state senate.