Albany legislators must not let the clock run out on the Dream Act.
The bill –which would expand the Tuition Assistance Program to undocumented students– is a reasonable investment in the future of thousands of talented youths who want to purse higher education but can’t because their undocumented status bars them for accessing resources.
Thousands of undocumented immigrants contribute to this state’s workforce on a daily basis. New immigrants drive our vibrant restaurant, construction, hotel and maintenance industries, to name a few. Their children, who were school-aged when they came to the United States and were educated in our public schools, need our support. We’re talking about young people who graduate from our high schools after overcoming huge language and culture barriers, only to see their dreams of attending college vanish because of our nation’s inability to resolve immigration issues.
The Empire State has often been a leader on national issues. The passage of the Dream Act would be perfectly in line with the drive to graduate more students from high school and develop our workforce. Hundreds of undocumented New York students, who don’t have the option of simply focusing on their studies, have openly mobilized trips to Albany to lobby for the Act. In doing so, they risk exposing themselves to immigration authorities.
Senator Bill Perkins and Assemblyman Guillermo Linares heard their voices and introduced a bill that would give these students some of the same opportunities as their peers. Based on academic merit, students can obtain education credits and scholarships in public colleges and universities.
To be approved, this bill needs Governor Andrew Cuomo’s support and power of persuasion. If Cuomo does his best to bring over reluctant Senate Republicans to back the Dream Act, as he did to get gay marriage approved, this year’s budget session could end with the same sense of justice and progress that the 2011 session inspired.
This is a crucial week for this effort. Governor Cuomo: the future of these young people is in your hands. You can do what the White House and Congress have yet to do for them. Turn this dream state into reality.