Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa announced that today the Assembly will pass the Jose Peralta New York State DREAM Act to ensure immigrant children are able to access higher education in order to fully participate in the states economy. The bill was renamed this year in memory of the late Senator Jose Peralta, who was a passionate champion of the DREAM Act and a tireless advocate for all immigrants.
The Assembly Majority believes in breaking down barriers, not creating them, said Speaker Heastie. We know higher education is the key to ending the cycle of poverty and enabling families to thrive. We have repeatedly passed the DREAM Act because we know it is economically misguided and morally unjust to deprive students educated in our very own public schools of the tools they need to be successful.
For the vast majority of students, the pursuit of higher education would be impossible without access to financial aid, said Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick, chair of the Higher Education Committee. Our public primary and secondary schools are required by law to educate our children and prepare them for college, regardless of residence or immigration status. That investment is squandered when higher education is placed out of reach, and it is a huge disservice to students and all New Yorkers.
This is a historic moment for New York State as we usher in the passage of the DREAM Act. After years of advocacy, DREAMers in New York will finally be able to step out of the shadows and use higher education to live their American Dream, said Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa, sponsor of the bill. Today we honor the contributions of immigrants who have made New York their home and allow for the opportunity for students to reach their maximum potential.
The Jose Peralta New York State DREAM Act (A.782, De La Rosa) would eliminate potential financial obstacles to obtaining state financial aid for undocumented students in New York seeking to attend an institution of higher education. Under the bill, these students would be eligible for general awards, performance based awards, or New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) funds if they:
- Attended an approved NYS high school for two or more years, graduated from an approved NYS high school and applied for attendance to a NYS college or university within five years of receiving their NYS high school diploma; or
- Attended an approved NYS program for a state high school equivalency diploma, received their state high school equivalency diploma and applied for attendance to a NYS college or university within five years of receiving their state high school equivalency diploma; or
- Are otherwise eligible for in-state tuition at SUNY, CUNY or community colleges as prescribed by their admission criteria.
Although federal law requires that every state provide primary and secondary education to all children regardless of their residence or immigration status, current New York State law prohibits these students from receiving state financial aid for higher education.
The legislation would also help immigrant families prepare for the costs of higher education by allowing an individual with a taxpayer identification number to open a New York State 529 family tuition account under the New York State College Savings Program.
At a time when the administration in Washington is promoting hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric and spreading misinformation, New York will lead the way in doing what is right for DREAMers and all New Yorkers, said Assemblymember Maritza Davila, chair of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force. These individuals have been educated in our public schools and deserve the opportunity to fully participate in their communities and our states economy. The time is now.
New York has long been a symbol of hope and opportunity for immigrants coming to this country, said Assemblymember Tremaine Wright, chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. Immigrants are facing difficult and uncertain times under the current federal administration, but this legislation says loud and clear that here in New York, we know immigrants are a critical thread in the fabric of our society and our economy.
Without the DREAM Act, thousands of students are graduating from our high schools year after year with little chance of receiving the higher education they need to be successful and climb the economic ladder it is truly a system in which no one wins, said Assemblymember Ron Kim, co-chair of the Asian American Pacific Task Force. The DREAM Act levels the playing field and gives these hard working students the opportunities they need and deserve.
Throughout our nations history, immigrants have come to this country looking for better opportunities and a brighter future for their children, said Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, co-chair of the Asian American Pacific Task Force. My district includes the gateway to America from our Statue of Liberty, to Ellis Island. Our leaders must understand that immigrants help shape our communities and make countless contributions to our state. Every day, DREAMers are out there, attending school, serving in our military, and building up our neighborhoods. Its long past time that we give them access to the resources they need to succeed in higher education and beyond.
Immigrants make invaluable contributions to our states workforce, economy and the social fabric of our communities, said Assemblymember Victor Pichardo, chair of the Task Force on New Americans. Despite their countless contributions, they still face many unique barriers. The DREAM Act will help break down one of these critical barriers and ensure that our immigrant youth are able to achieve academic success and fully participate in the states economy.
Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, said, This issue is about fairness, opportunity and inclusion which is why it has been a priority of the Labor Movement for so long. It is about giving the children of immigrants an opportunity to achieve the American Dream. And it is about making sure they realize their full potential which will ultimately make our state even stronger; something we all benefit from. I want to thank Speaker Carl Heastie who has always been a steadfast supporter of the Jose R. Peralta DREAM Act and I thank bill sponsor Assemblymember Carmen De la Rosa, and the Assembly Majority for their ongoing support on this critical issue.
Javier H. Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, said, Today marks a historic day in the lives of immigrant youth all over New York State. Undocumented youth have traveled to Albany year after year, leading the fight to have an equal access to state financial aid to be able to fulfill their aspirations of attending college. With the passage of the NY DREAM Act, we are sending a clear message: we will protect our youth and their future. We thank the leadership of Speaker Heastie, our lead sponsor Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa, and all those who voted in support."
Karen Garcia, DREAMer and member of Make the Road New York, said, Last year, I graduated from high school uncertain about my future as an undocumented student. I was shut out from pursuing a higher education, because I did not have access to state financial aid. Today, after years of fighting, the NY DREAM Act will pass and all students, regardless of immigration status, will be able to pursue their dreams and go to college.
Yohan Garcia, DREAMer, said, If the New York DREAM Act would have passed since it was first introduced, all of us DREAMers would have had more opportunities to achieve our professional education faster and come closer to having equal access to the education we have worked so hard for. I strongly believe that students who are studying and working hard deserve an equal opportunity to obtain a higher education. Education is a human right; thus, I am more than glad that today we are working collectively to make sure that this right is granted to all undocumented youth in the State of New York.