The Assembly last week passed a bill that would grant college financial aid to immigrants living in the country illegally.
But the NY Dream Act still faces hurdles before becoming law.
The bill was passed for the third consecutive year by the Assembly, but Senate Republicans, many who opposed it in last year’s elections, could do the same this session.
Long Island Assemblyman Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) voted against the act, saying that legislators need to help legal students first before rewarding those who are not here legally.
Murray called the Dream Act a “disservice to those who have played by the rules and expect to be treated accordingly.”
But in the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio lauded the bill’s passage in the Lower Chamber, saying it reaffirmed New York’s commitment to immigration reform.
“This bold and much-needed bill will give thousands of young immigrant students across our state, who have been waiting for far too long, access to college by offering tuition assistance, which in turn will lead to better job opportunities and higher earnings,” de Blasio said.
Cuomo’s $142 billion budget linked the act to the state’s Tuition Assistance Program and the proposed Education Investment Tax Credit, which would allow public and private school donors to take write-offs on their state taxes.
Senate GOP members favor the tax credit but oppose the act. Many political insiders have said tying the issues together could be seen as a compromise.
The widely-supported TAP grants students financial assistance when their families meet designated income requirements.
Some pundits have speculated that the act has taken so long to advance because in the past it has been presented as a standalone measure, and as such, was subject to political divisiveness along party lines.
Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said that the bill could pass in the Senate this time around because it is tied to other education funding initiatives.
“The Dream Act itself is only viable with funding attached,” noted Addabbo, who said that in the past he couldn’t support the measure due to a lack of funding.
“But now,” he continued, “the act has $27 billion extra dollars for everybody and not just for undocumented students. It makes the bill more acceptable.”
Last week, Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights), a lead sponsor of the bill, called the Dream Act fight “bigger than us and the Assembly chamber,” adding that most Dreamers have lived in fear of being deported.
“They’re just asking to be allowed to be contributing members of society,” Moya said.
Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), another key sponsor of the act in the Senate, said, “New York is not a place that punishes children for the acts of their parents…This is a land of opportunity, and that’s why we must follow the footsteps of the Assembly and pass the Dream Act in the Senate.”
For anyone who thinks that the act will cost taxpayers more money, Peralta sought to clarify the record.
“The Dream Act just amounts to an average of 87 cents for your average New York taxpayer,” he said. “It is a sound financial investment in New York’s economic future because the average college graduate pays about $4,000 a year in state taxes. This means that the Dream Act should begin paying for itself in a few short years.”
Anthony Alarcon, an immigration youth organizer for the advocacy group Make the Road NY, agreed with Peralta.
“Passing the NY Dream Act for the fourth time in the Assembly only reaffirms the commitment to our community,” Alarcon said in an email. “It gives hope to thousands of undocumented students to continue with their higher education.”
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