BY YVETTE BROWN
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act or DREAM Act didn’t pass in the State Legislature again this year after having been reintroduced several times including a big push in 2010.
The legislation would make about 4,500 undocumented students in New York eligible for tuition assistance. Officials estimate it would cost about $27 million.
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) and Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) responded to the failure of the legislation, each with high hopes that it will be passed in the future.
Peralta called it “a delay,” expressing certainty that the DREAM Act will eventually be passed, if not in 2016 then definitely in 2017. He hopes Gov. Andrew Cuomo will continue the fight by putting the legislation in his executive budget.
“It’s going to be a very tough issue to move during an election year, but that will motivate us and it’ll motivate the troops on the ground for 2016 elections and then when we the Democrats take back the Senate, then it’s going to be a much easier deal,” said Peralta.
Peralta encouraged undocumented students and their families to keep their heads up and offered suggestions around the DREAM Act to help these students to receive financial help for their tuition, including utilizing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
DACA is a policy created in 2012 by President Barack Obama. It allows deferred deportation to undocumented individuals under the age of 31, who came to the United States under the age of 16, to apply for employment authorization and receive a Social Security number. One can also receive a driver’s license. DACA allows legal presence, but not legal status.
“Some individuals will be able to apply for DACA, now CUNY has received a $50 million donation if you are interested in going to CUNY,” said Peralta. “There are other programs in the SUNY system that we’re talking to the governor about that he may be helpful to implement some time this summer and once that happens we’ll definitely let [the community] know about it, but there are other opportunities that exist out there to help individuals so that they can pay for college. It’s not DREAM Act, but it’s band-aids that can help them a long way until we pass the DREAM Act.”
Moya, although not happy that the legislation was not passed by the Senate, was very pleased that it went through the Assembly without any issues.
“I am heartened that it, once again, passed the Assembly with ease and remained a centerpiece issue of this year’s budget negotiations,” said Moya. “The public is ready to embrace our DREAMers and their hopes of achieving higher education. Perhaps our friends across the aisle will soon wake up to that reality and vote for what’s right. This is a fight that’s not going away and a population that’s not going away. Our fight will continue.”
Constantinides emphasized the legislation wouldn’t just benefit students with financial aid for college tuition, but it would also benefit communities by offering better job opportunities and positive impacts to economic development.
“All residents deserve to enroll in our outstanding public education system,” said Constantinides. “I am disappointed that the legislation failed to pass this year and I urge the state Senate Republicans to reassess their position.”
At least 20 states have passed a version of the DREAM Act. Each state-level law provides different benefits for undocumented students, including access to in-state rates or eligibility for certain scholarships or state financial aid. Peralta explained that although it’s a long-term process, the DREAM Act will be passed.
“We’re going to make sure that sometimes we may not win the battle, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be so much sweeter the day we win that war,” said Peralta. “We’re going to say ‘we accomplished the DREAM Act for thousands and thousands of individuals that only wanted to get a higher education and contribute to society,’ and that’s going to be a great feeling that day.”
Reach Yvette Brown at (718)357-7400 x.128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @eveywrites