The New York Legislature and Gov. Cuomo are set to approve a budget deal that disregards requests that mean a lot to Hispanics. This is happening as Albany prepares to host the “Somos el Futuro” (We Are the Future) Hispanic conference.
There is much to discuss at this event, which seeks to involve Latinos in the process of developing policies that benefit them. Everyone who wants to score brownie points with Latinos, from the governor on down, attends Somos, in an attempt to show they’re sympathetic to our problems.
This year, politicians have little to show. The NY Dream Act, making low-income workers part of a new minimum wage law and liberalizing marijuana penalties all fell into deaf ears.
Among these, the reluctance to pass the Dream Act in Albany is a clear example. Unlike in previous years, the bill became more widespread, garnering approval in the Assembly and the support of some senators. But Cuomo didn’t even address it and the Senate refused to fund it. As a comparison, the Senate included tax exemptions totaling $700 million for business owners, but they couldn’t come up with $25 million for the NY Dream Act?
Apparently, the Senate (including the Democrats) saw the Dream Act as a luxury item or an exclusively Latino issue, when in reality it’s an investment that can change the futures of thousands of families. You don’t need to be a public policy expert to know that a college degree can mean the difference between a life of poverty and becoming middle-class, not to mention the positive impact this has on the economy. In addition to economic reasons, the Dream Act is about providing social equality in a state that prides itself for its diversity and openness to immigrants.
It’s ironic that the signing of this budget coincides with this conference. But it can be the perfect opportunity for lawmakers, activists and community members to plan ways to assert ourselves. There’s a lot of work ahead, since bills like the Dream Act can still become a reality during this legislative session. We must have strong voices to make a difference in an Albany that seems unable to hear us.