ALBANY — It may be the next best thing to a dream — or a DREAM Act — for the college-bound children of illegal immigrants.
The state Assembly Tuesday voted 136 to 3 to create a privately financed scholarship fund to help the children of immigrants pay college tuitions.
“This is a historic piece of legislation that will allow these children the opportunity to get money to go to college,” said Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Queens), the bill’s primary sponsor.
“This will open up a pathway for those students who can’t afford a (college education),” Moya added.
The measure now heads to the GOP-controlled Senate, where it faces an uncertain future.
“We are reviewing it,” said Scott Reif, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau).
Moya and other supporters described the bill as an important first step toward the controversial DREAM Act, which would authorize government-funded tuition assistance to the children of undocumented immigrants.
The DREAM Act has so far failed to win approval in either the state Senate or Assembly. A federal version has also bogged down in Congress.
The bill approved Tuesday would create the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Fund Commission to solicit private contributions for scholarships.
“I believe the issue of providing for the advancement of immigrant students is above all else a matter of human dignity,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan).
Immigrant advocates praised the Assembly’s vote and urged the Legislature to take the next step and pass the DREAM Act.
“Hopefully one day we are going to have the DREAM Act but this is the first step that we are making,” said 16-year-old Katherine Tabares (a member of Make The Road New York), a Corona, Queens, high school senior who hopes to study environmental engineering in college.
Tabares came to the U.S. from Colombia with her mom two years ago and overstayed a visa. She was among 40 city kids who took a bus to Albany to watch the vote.
Critics said the bill simply encourages more illegal immigration.
“If you are a good parent south of the border right now, you look at this and say well, of course I want to go there, look at the benefits we are going to get,” said Assemblyman Dean Murray (R-Suffolk), one of three GOP lawmakers to vote against the bill Tuesday.
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