President Obama’s decision to issue work permits to undocumented young men and women was welcomed news for the immigrant community, as well as for many elected officials who understand the importance of this policy change. On Friday, when the decision was announced, congratulatory public statements poured in from major Democratic leaders, except for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The governor has yet to support a state bill that would allow undocumented students to access the Tuition Assistance Program, which would help them pay tuition in some cases. This may explain why he’s been silent on Obama’s move.
The bill, know as the NY Dream Act, was introduced last year in the Senate and Assembly. Cuomo’s support would be key in bringing this important legislation to the floor.
Now is the time to build on the momentum from the president’s smart announcement. One of the criticisms of the local Dream Act was that it made no sense to pay to educate these youths if they couldn’t get jobs after graduation. But now, many of them will have work permits. If they get a good education, they’ll be able to make the most of their talents, increase their incomes and contribute more as taxpayers.
Two weeks are left before the current legislative session closes. Cuomo has shown that when he believes in a bill, he’s able to successfully channel it through the state legislature and turn it into law. Let’s not forget that the marriage equality law was passed in the eleventh hour of last year’s legislative session.
It’s all a matter of political will. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver seems increasingly convinced a law like this is essential. Based on his reaction to other legislation, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, may be willing to negotiate with the governor.
President Obama did his part last week. Cuomo and lawmakers are up next- it’s their turn to wake New York out of a dream state. We urge Governor Cuomo to apply some muscle and use his office to give these young people, the product of our public schools, a chance to fulfill their college dreams