BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
The New York State DREAM Act is getting back into the ring.
Last Tuesday, the DREAM Act was reintroduced to the State Assembly. This legislation, which would give qualifying undocumented immigrant students access to financial aid, scholarships and student loans for higher education, passed the State Assembly last year but was defeated in the Senate.
Although a majority of Senators voted to pass the DREAM Act, the bill fell short of the required 32 votes to pass, receiving 30.
The bill will now have to pass the Assembly once again, then the Senate before arriving on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk. On Monday, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver stated that he wants to see the DREAM Act passed before the end of the legislative session on June 19.
“By continuing this fight, we have made it clear that we will not allow the aspirations of our State’s DREAMers to wither on the vine,” said Councilman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) in a statement released Monday. “Since the DREAM Act has the support of the Assembly Speaker, the Governor and one of the Senate’s co-leaders, there’s no reason we can’t get it done this year.”
To be eligible for State assistance under the DREAM Act, undocumented students would have to graduate from a New York high school or receive a New York GED, apply for college within five years and affirm that they will pursue legal citizenship as soon as they are able.
According to a 2013 report from the office of New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, roughly 8,300 students enrolled in New York’s public higher education institutions are undocumented immigrants.
However, these students constitute only five to 10 percent of all undocumented students who graduate from New York high schools, according to the Immigration Policy Center, due to the costs they face when pursuing a degree.
“So many of our undocumented high school members are graduating from high school, and have not been able to make set college plans for next year because they cannot afford it without access to State financial aid,” said Razeem Zaman, Campaign Organizer of the New York State Youth Leadership Council, a volunteer organization of undocumented youth working for immigrant advancement and education.
“I hope this time around, the New York State Senate will put students before politics and keep New York’s best interests in mind,” Zaman added.
After the bill’s failure in the Senate last March, DREAM Act proponents were critical of two absent Republican Senators – Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) and Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) – who were expected to be supportive, as well as of Cuomo, who did not include the measure in his executive budget.
For his part, Cuomo has been vocal in his support of the DREAM Act, stating since the bill’s first introduction that he would sign it if it reached his desk.
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), who sponsored the bill, said, “We have an opportunity here in New York to build on the growing national consensus, among business, labor and Republican and Democratic leaders, on both the need and obvious economic benefits of the DREAM Act.”
Moya reiterated this sense of inevitability.
“Speaker Silver has never given up on the DREAM, neither have I, nor have our State’s DREAMers,” he said. “There’s no stopping us.”
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.