The State Assembly approved Tuesday the NY Dream Fund, a bill creating a private fund that helps undocumented students pay for college tuition.
This is no doubt a positive, welcome initiative. However, the Dream Fund on its own is not enough to address the problem facing undocumented students. And it should in no way distract state lawmakers from passing the NY Dream Act, a bill with a similar name but an entirely different scope.
For more than a year, both undocumented and regular students have mobilized, lobbying Governor Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers to pass the NY Dream Act. This bill would allow undocumented students who attend public colleges and universities to participate in the state’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP).
Surprisingly, the struggle for the NY Dream Act-which came about as a response to the federal government’s failure to approve a national bill helping thousands of undocumented students to attend college-has been tough. Neither the leaders of the Democratic-majority Assembly or the GOP-controlled Senate have supported the proposal. This continues to be the case, despite evidence of its economic benefits and the overwhelming support it has garnered from a growing group of federal, state and municipal officials, including Mayor Bloomberg and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. It’s puzzling that Governor Cuomo, whose signature are needed to enact the law, a man who supports the national Dream Act, has refused to express his position on this bill.
Given the situation, it’s hard to celebrate the progress of the NY Dream Fund. In this world, where perception guides public opinion, a bill can eliminate another. Despite its undeniable good intentions, the Dream Fund could be a way to avoid committing state funds to help young undocumented immigrants, who in the eyes of many Republicans shouldn’t benefit from public funding despite being products of our public schools, and their tax contributions.
It’s not hard to imagine a press release from Albany hailing the approval of the Dream Fund as the relief our undocumented students need. Let’s not be fooled. One of the responsibilities of the proudly diverse State of New York is to help all our students achieve a complete education. Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate majority leader Dean Skelos, and governor Cuomo, you cannot continue to be absent on this issue. Pass the NY Dream Act.