Local Citizenship, No Matter Your Immigration Status
Here’s a smart idea out of New Haven: issuing ID cards to city residents regardless of immigration status. According to this report, some 10-12,000 undocumented aliens living in New Haven are eligible for the card, which will allow immigrants to fill prescriptions and access local banks, libraries, and public services. “Most importantly, it will designate them as full-fledged participants in civil society.”
The program is being watched closely by other cities, including New York. It shows that while some localities are unfriendly to undocumented immigrants, others are welcoming. There’s no necessary race to the bottom in immigration federalism.
Indeed, the idea might be extended to extending formal state citizenship to those who lack national citizenship. There’s constitutional authority for the concept: in no less than Dred Scott, in which Justice Taney found that “[i]t does not by any means follow, because he has all the rights and privileges of a citizen of a State, that he must be a citizen of the United States.” The 14th Amendment, which overturned Scott‘s retrograde holding, wouldn’t seem to present an obstacle. A citizen of New York and not of the United States? Sounds odd, but there’s no conceptual or practical reason it couldn’t be so.