Immigrant rights advocates are pressuring Governor Andrew Cuomo to negotiate a deal with Senate Republicans on the Dream Act after lawmakers said Monday the proposal to allow undocumented college students access to state tuition assistance had fallen out of the budget.
Assemblyman Francisco Moya, a Democrat from Queens who sponsored the bill, released a statement Monday night accusing Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos of being motivated by “xenophobia” and “lack of foresight.” But Moya’s real target was Cuomo, who the assemblyman said needs to “show true leadership and to bring Senator Dean Skelos back to the table to open up talks on the Dream Act, just as [the governor] has in the past with tough issues like marriage equality and the SAFE Act.
“On the campaign trail, Governor Cuomo made a pact with the people of New York—he said he would make sure the DREAM Act was signed into law,” Moya said. “Now is the time to make good on that promise.”
Other advocates focused solely on Cuomo, without criticizing Skelos, whose conference has vehemently opposed the Dream Act.
Make the Road New York, an immigrant rights group that has focused on the Dream Act, released a statement from Claritza Suarez, a Long Island high school sophomore who hopes to receive funds from the state to attend college. Suarez noted that news of the stalemate on the Dream Act came after the Somos el Futuro conference in Albany this weekend and the same day Cuomo penned an op-ed in the New York Post pushing for the legislation.
“Today’s news makes me feel like the Governor’s just making empty promises to us, and that he’s not really standing up for our dreams,” she said in the statement. “But we will not be stopped—we’re going to keep pressuring the Governor and our Senators to make sure that the New York DREAM Act becomes a reality this year.”
The United Federation of Teachers and the Alliance for Quality Education, a labor-backed advocacy group, both of which are at odds with Cuomo on his education positions more broadly, released statements pushing the governor to enact the Dream Act, without strings.
In his initial budget proposal, Cuomo linked the Dream Act to the education tax credit, which would incentivize donations to private school scholarship funds as well as public schools.
“We call on Gov. Cuomo to restore the Dream Act to the budget—on its own—and to pass it as part of the budget,” U.F.T. president Michael Mulgrew said. “Our children deserve nothing less.”
A.Q.E. president Billy Easton said: “We have seen tough nosed negotiations in the past when he is really committed to an issue. We need to see that now.”
Cuomo’s communications director Melissa DeRosa released a statement earlier Monday addressing the Dream Act as well as other education and ethics issues still under discussion.
DeRosa explained in the statement that Assembly Democrats support the Dream Act, while Senate Republicans do not. Conversely, the G.O.P.-controlled upper chamber wants the tax credit. While some Democrats in the Assembly support the bill, too, but not enough do for a consensus. Cuomo tied the proposals together in an effort to achieve them both.
“The Governor believes at this point, that either both will pass or neither,” she said. “The Governor supports passage of both and included them in his budget. If they don’t pass in the budget, they could still pass in regular session.”
In his statement, Moya also criticized Skelos, arguing that his unwillingness to approve the Dream Act also killed the education tax credit.
“Right now, two of the ‘three men in the room’ negotiating the budget understand the importance of the DREAM Act and how it will benefit this state,” Moya said, referring to Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
“Unfortunately, one of the three men has his head stuck in the sand,” Moya said. “His xenophobia and lack of foresight has even made him willing to kill his own initiative, the Education Investment Tax Credit, a measure that would benefit his own constituents. He is willing to kill two educational initiatives for the sake of political convenience.”
A spokesman for Skelos did not immediately return a request for comment.
Senator Simcha Felder, a Democrat who caucuses with the Republicans and who has supported the tax credit bill, said Cuomo and the Assembly both played parts in the proposal’s demise during budget negotiations.
“I think that people are not as naive as the Assembly and the governor think they are, and that they’re tired of the games that the Assembly and governor are playing with them by trying to shift blame to each other over and over again,” Felder said.
“Sometimes you smack somebody once, they don’t get it. You smack them again; they don’t get it. Finally, sometimes after the third time, they finally realize that you are telling people, telling non-public school parents, that they don’t count,” Felder said. “They’re no priority at all, and we are not naïve.”
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