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Immigration reform moves to states; New York eyes citizenship after 3 years of taxes

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Immigration,New York,Eric Cantor,Andrew Cuomo

The frustration with Washington's inaction on any type of immigration reform has forced proponents to shift their attention to states such as New York where a new plan was offered Monday to grant citizenship and voting rights after an illegal immigrant pays three years of taxes.

The Washington-based Center for Popular Democracy said the New York legislative effort to provide citizenship benefits to three million immigrants is the result of the fallout of congressional gridlock and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's defeat last week, which pundits blamed on his support for reform.

But that doesn’t mean immigration reform supporters have given up on a national solution. Center Co-Executive Director Andrew Friedman told Secrets, “We will definitely continue to work hard for federal reform, even as we push states to show leadership and do everything they can to promote immigrant inclusion and dignity, as well as economic expansion and growth.”

The New York legislation, titled “New York is Home Act,” sets requirements for immigrants to meet before they can apply for citizenship with New York's Office for New Americans, created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo:

• Proof of identity.

• Proof of three years of New York state residency.

• Proof of three years of New York state tax payments.

• Commitment to abide by New York laws and uphold the state constitution.

• A willingness to serve on New York juries and to continue to pay state taxes.

In return, said Friedman's group in a release, immigrants would get New York state citizenship, financial aid for higher education, health care, drivers' licenses, professional licenses, the right to vote, the right to run for office, and protection against racial profiling.

“This bill is about New York state doing everything it can to promote the full equality of immigrants. State powers, though, are very different than federal powers, so the package of opportunities and benefits are different from any federal bill,” said Friedman, whose group is promoting similar plans in other states.

“Our state's hardworking non-citizens should have the opportunity to fully participate in the health and growth of our state,” said New York State Sen. Gustavo Rivera, the lead sponsor of the legislation.

“State citizenship should recognize and reward the contributions of noncitizen residents who play by the rules while living and working here,” added the state assembly sponsor, Karim Camara.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.