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Plan aims to waive citizenship fees for thousands in New York City

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer wants to create a citizenship fund for eligible immigrants who live in the five boroughs. He spoke Friday, May 12, 2017, in Lower Manhattan with the Statue of Liberty as his backdrop. (Credit: Newsday / Matthew Chayes). Lower thirds: Scott Stringer, NYC comptroller; James Hong; co-director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action

Becoming a U.S. citizen would be free for tens of thousands of eligible immigrant New Yorkers in the city under a taxpayer-funded plan released Friday by the municipal comptroller, who said he’s motivated by “President Trump’s misguided immigration policies.”

With the Statue of Liberty as the backdrop, Comptroller Scott Stringer said the plan would help 35,000 immigrants afford the federal $725 naturalization fee if the aspiring citizen earns between 150 percent and 300 percent of the federal poverty line, incomes of less than $61,260 annually for a family of three. People in this bracket earn too much to qualify for existing fee-reduction programs.

Stringer, a Democrat, said he felt compelled to act “with the Trump administration ratcheting up its attacks on immigrant communities, with more frequent raids.”

The program would also solicit private contributions, though the ratio of public to private dollars has yet to be determined, said Stringer, who wrote the mayor’s office to push the idea.

Mayor Bill De Blasio’s immigration spokeswoman Rosemary Boeglin said the office had not received Stringer’s proposal, but added: “We appreciate the Comptroller’s shared interest in increasing citizenship rates — a win-win for cities and communities, and a key priority for the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.”

Stringer’s office said that there are about 670,000 New York City residents who are eligible for naturalization, but costs discourage them from applying.

James Hong, the co-director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action, an organization that opposes tighter immigration enforcement, said he’d like to see programs like Stringer’s, “rather than spending billions of dollars on more detentions and faster deportations for our immigrants as the Trump administration has proposed in his recent budget, not to mention an even greater amount, billions more, for a ridiculous wall.”

A call to the White House for comment wasn’t immediately returned.

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