Supporters of DREAM Act rally at Latino conference for college bill despite loss
Mateo Tabares and two dozen other students chanted “Education not deportation” and similar slogans Saturday morning as they rallied in support of the DREAM Act, a measure that would allow access to state financial aid for New York college students who are undocumented.
The bill likely would mean the difference between Tabares, an 18-year-old from Queens, being able to go to college full time or having to work 40 hours a week to pay tuition for only part-time classes, thus delaying his education, he said. Tabares was among a group of young people who traveled upstate to advocate for the DREAM Act during this weekend’s Somos El Futuro conference, a gathering of Latino lawmakers. The DREAM Act would benefit an estimated 8,000 students, proponents say.
Defeated in the state Senate on March 17 by a 30-29 vote — two short of the 32 needed for a majority — the bill is the subject of continuing negotiations. Supporters are pressuring Gov. Andrew Cuomo to include it in the state budget, which is due April 1.
Students, members of the state Senate and Assembly, labor leaders and others spoke at a news conference at the Empire State Plaza organized by Felix Ortiz, a Brooklyn Democrat who chairs the state Legislature’s Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force and is chairman of the Somos conference.
Four states — Texas, California, New Mexico and Washington — have passed versions of the DREAM Act to allow non-citizen students access to state aid for college education. Criticizing the federal government for promising but failing to pass immigration reform, Sen. Jose Peralta, a Queens Democrat who sponsored the DREAM Act in the Senate, said, “Now it is up to us, New York state, to take the lead and ensure that we pass the DREAM Act. … We want to work with Gov. Cuomo to make sure New York becomes the fifth state.”
Ortiz, who attended a meeting about the DREAM Act with other legislators and Cuomo on Friday, said the Senate and Assembly must come to an agreement on how to pay for the initiative without using taxpayer money, a condition imposed by Senate Republicans. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said the measure would cost $25 million a year if approved.
New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who spoke at the press conference, echoed the call for the DREAM Act to be part of the state budget. New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, who like Mark-Viverito earlier Saturday discussed the measure at a Somos breakfast, said he was in favor of the DREAM Act becoming law but stopped short of calling for its inclusion in the state budget.
“I am not into the technicalities of Albany,” de Blasio told reporters afterward, according to the New York Daily News’ Daily Politics blog. ” I just think the DREAM Act’s the right thing to do.”