The DREAM Act is one step closer to becoming a reality.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, Assembly Higher Education Committee Chair Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan, and Assemblyman Francisco Moya, D-Queens, announced last week the Assembly Higher Education Committee passed the state Development Relief Education for Alien Minors Act, which means the bill could soon be brought to the Assembly floor.
The DREAM Act, introduced by Moya earlier this year, would allow children of undocumented immigrants to apply for state financial aid and would create the DREAM Fund, which would provide private scholarships to undocumented immigrants and children of undocumented immigrants.
"The DREAM Act will help these 'dreamers' acquire the skills necessary for the jobs of the future so they, like the immigrant generations before them, can help build on, and contribute to, this state and nation's social, academic, cultural and economic greatness," said Silver.
The DREAM Act would also provide immigrant youth to access to the state's educational opportunity programs, such as the Tuition Assistance Program, Higher Education Opportunity Program, Educational Opportunity Program, Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program, and Opportunity Programs available at community colleges throughout the state.
"For the state's immigrant youth, their path to the American Dream has many obstacles, but through the DREAM Act they will have a greater opportunity to overcome those barriers and access the financial support they need to pursue a college education and make their dreams come true," said Glick.
Moya, whose parents are Ecuadorian immigrants said, "The national tide is turning. It is time for New York to once again rise to the occasion and act as a beacon of progressive policy."
Silver went on to say: "What we're dealing with in this legislation is keeping America's promise— the promise of freedom, equality and opportunity for all."
New York State Education Department Commissioner John King Jr., applauded the measure.
"Young New Yorkers who are willing to work hard and study hard should not be denied educational opportunities simply on the basis of their parent's immigration status. The Board [of Regents] strongly supports legislation —like the DREAM Act— that will give undocumented students the opportunity to access higher education."
Although the bill (A.2597), and its counterpart in the Senate (S.2378), is being praised by some, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, R-Staten Island, said she is less enthused about the bill.
"The DREAM Act is a misguided proposal and a slap in the face of every hardworking, tax-paying American citizen and legal immigrant, who like my parents and I, struggled to pay tuition," said Malliotakis.
In past statements Malliotakis has called the bill "misplaced" in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, saying more focus and more resources should be devoted to the hurricane's victims than undocumented citizens.
"To focus time, energy and most importantly tax dollars on tuition aid for illegal aliens at a time when lifelong Americans are fighting to put their lives back together is unconscionable and frankly offensive," she said.
"To take resources away from American citizens and legal immigrants to give to illegal immigrants is not fair, it is not right and it diminishes the sacrifices of my parents and so many struggling American students in our state," said Malliotakis. "Instead of giving taxpayers' money to illegal immigrants, the state must allow the federal government to do its job and work toward a path to citizenship. For these reasons, I will be voting no on this legislation if and when it is brought to the floor."
If passed, the DREAM Act would place New York among three other states that permit college-bound immigrant students access to state funded financial aid. New Mexico, Texas and California are among those states.
"I'm proud that New York is taking that step. I'm just sorry that Texas was ahead of us," Glick said.
The bill is still being debated in the Senate Committee on Higher Education.