Cuomo, Skelos, Klein: Pass the Dream Act!

State budget negotiations in Albany are in the home stretch. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate leaders must keep in mind that the Latino immigrant community expects them to prioritize the Dream Act bill by including it in the budget package for the next fiscal year.

After a long, tough campaign, the New York Dream Act now has all-time-high support. This bill will give undocumented students who graduated from New York high schools access to state financial aid. The State Assembly already approved the Dream Act bill sponsored by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Queens Assemblyman Francisco Moya, earmarking $25 million for its implementation.

Obtaining support in the Assembly is a big step forward—a signal that Assembly members understand the needs and wishes of the Latino immigrant community. Now the State Senate and Gov. Cuomo must show the same level of commitment and understanding.

In the Senate, the decision is up to Jeff Klein, an Independent Democrat, and Dean Skelos, a Republican—and they’re both reluctant to pay for the measure.

Gov. Cuomo, on the other hand, has remained mysteriously silent on this issue. This, despite strong pressure from young Dreamers and immigrant advocacy groups—and the approval of similar laws in California, Texas and New Mexico, which recognize the contributions of the undocumented. If Cuomo wants to become president, he should do everything in his power now to garner support from Latino voters in his own state.

There is no excuse not to pass the NY Dream Act. College financial aid is an investment that significantly increases the incomes of workers and the taxes they pay. Evidence of this abounds, and these lawmakers have surely heard of it.

The immigrant community worked tirelessly on the comprehensive Dream Act bill that the Assembly approved; therefore, the Senate must pass the same version. The NY Dream Act will allow eligible undocumented students to participate in the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP); give more families access to the 529 plan, a savings program for their children’s college education; and create a Dream Fund Commission to raise private funds to educate undocumented students.

This has been a long battle and the clock is ticking once again. Cuomo, Klein and Skelos: unequivocally support the education and the future of these youths. Show Latino voters that you’re committed to them.