Although the Assembly yesterday approved the New York Dream Act, there is no date to even debate this bill in the Senate. Despite this, supporters of the bill celebrated its approval. Assembly members quickly sent out statements to the media and welcomed the Dreamer community with open arms.
Instead, they should have rolled up their sleeves. The bill, which would allow undocumented students to access state financial aid, has little chance of becoming law without the support of Senate co-leaders Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx) and Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre).
Skelos represents a conservative district and fears that the appearance of being pro-immigrant would cost him votes during a re-election race. He is also using Congress’s work as an excuse to not act locally on immigrant issues. And he is missing the lesson about the heat and backlash Republicans have gotten for not being on the right side of immigrant issues.
Republicans are not the only problem here. Klein is conditioning a discussion of the NY Dreamer bill on the expansion of casinos in the state. But the Dreamer measure has been on the table since 2011 and it would only cost between $17 to 25 milliona tiny fraction of the state’s budget.
Klein’s attempt to rope the future of these students to a measure he wants to push is cheap and political.
It’s time to stop stalling.
The NY Dream Act is an investment in our state. Research by the Fiscal Policy Institute and the Immigration Policy Center shows that immigrant students equipped with higher education and college degrees actively participate in the workforce. Their long term contributions to the city and state’s economy would significantly dwarf the maximum commitment of $25 million, approximately five to six years post graduation.
The bill should be debated on its own merits and it should be passed for the sake of our students and the future of the Empire State.
Assembly members should pause from slapping each other on the back and push hard for Klein and Skelos and Governor Cuomo to push this bill through the finish line.