New York State DREAM Act would help undocumented immigrants attend college with financial aid; issue takes center stage at Queens town hall meeting.
The diverse borough of Queens is calling for reform that would give financial aid to immigrants seeking higher education.
At a town hall meeting hosted by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn on Thursday, residents and elected officials pushed for the passing of the New York State DREAM Act, which would provide tuition assistance to college students who are undocumented.
“You have hard-working New York students who are smart who could go to any college of their dreams and go forward and change the world,” Quinn said at LaGuardia Community College. “But if their secondary education gets cut off just because of their immigration status, that’s not going to happen.”
Queens students who have faced hardships due to being undocumented urged lawmakers to pass the bill so that deserving immigrants can get scholarships.
Emily Park, 24, who originally came from Korea as a child, said she has lived in Flushing for most of her life. But that made no difference when she applied to college because she is undocumented.
“I had a great GPA. I was a great all-around student but I realized my options were limited,” she said. “Imagine getting ready to go to college and not going to the college of your dreams because you are not allowed to get a scholarship.”
She worked several jobs to pay for tuition at Queens College, where she graduated. Now she wants to attend graduate school but cannot afford it without financial aid because she’s undocumented, she said.
Others who have faced similar problems said they hope the DREAM Act passes so others don’t have to face a similar plight.
Katherine Tavares [a youth member of Make the Road New York], 17, who graduated at the top of her class at the International High School at LaGuardia Community College, said she was ineligible for scholarships because she was an undocumented immigrant from Colombia.
She currently works two jobs so she can attend La Guardia Community College. She said she was ineligible for scholarships to her first-choice school.
“If you invest in your students, you invest in your whole state,” she said. “That’s why this bill has to pass in New York.”
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