For a New York Dream Act

The State’s Board of Regents is set to vote today in favor of the federal DREAM Act. With the vote, state education officials join a national call on Congress to expand the economic base by putting everyone to work – including the undocumented students our schools graduate each year, which in New York State is around 10,000 youth.

This is a necessary call, one we hope will influence the debate in Washington over the DREAM Act –a bill currently stalled in the Senate.

But with Congress invested in only one goal, winning in November 2012, today’s vote should sway Albany’s to act on a state version of the DREAM Act.

Earlier this year, Assemblyman Guillermo Linares and Senator Bill Perkins introduced legislation that would allow New York’s undocumented graduates apply for state financial aid. The bill could also give students the opportunity to work legally, have a driver license and health insurance.

The Linares/Perkins bill must receive priority attention from our state legislature in January when it comes back into session.

Linares said the bill is expected to receive enough support in the Assembly. Perkins will surely have a more difficult time moving this proposal forward in the Republican-controlled state senate.

Those skeptical about the bill should meet with members of the Youth Leadership Council of New York –an impressive movement of undocumented students fighting for the right to get an education. They represent the enthusiasm, talent and potential the Empire State needs and would benefit from. Studies by the Fiscal Policy Institute in Albany to Adelphi University in Long Island have thoroughly documented that immigrants are an asset to the state.

New York State is in no position to shoot itself in the foot by abandoning these young people.

Come January, the state legislature should usher in the Dream Act.