February 26, 2015

Assembly Will Pass DREAM Act and Calls on Senate to Eliminate Barriers to Higher Education for Immigrant Youth

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie today joined bill sponsor Francisco Moya and Higher Education Committee Chair Deborah J. Glick to announce the Assembly's intention to pass the New York State DREAM Act today, a bill that would increase the number of state financial aid opportunities available to New York's immigrant youth.

"The United States has been seen as a land of opportunity and freedom by immigrants from the very beginning. It is perplexing to me that the State, with arguably the richest history of welcoming immigrants, struggles to see the moral and fiscal obligation it has to pass the DREAM Act with the intention of providing opportunities that would foster a more successful and innovative future for all who call New York home," said Speaker Heastie. "The Assembly has fought relentlessly on behalf of these students and will continue to do so until the Senate acts."

The DREAM Act would provide immigrant youth with access to the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and the state's educational opportunity programs, including the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (C-STEP) and the opportunity programs available at community colleges.

Assemblymember Francisco Moya, the lead sponsor of the DREAM Act, said "We are on the precipice of victory. The Assembly has once again proven its commitment to the immigrants of New York State. With this vote today-in the people's house-we will send a strong message that New York is ready for the DREAM Act and that the voices of even the most vulnerable among us can reach the highest levels of state government. The support for the DREAM Act is more widespread than it's ever been-with the Assembly's vote today, we will have the full backing of the Assembly, the Governor, and Speaker Heastie. With the support of both the Governor and Speaker Heastie, we are poised to make 2015 the year of the DREAM. As budget negotiations proceed, I am confident that we will land on the right side of history, with the inclusion of the DREAM Act in this year's final budget. However, we will need the full commitment of leadership to make sure the DREAM Act is finally pushed across the finish line. The Assembly's vote today puts us one step closer to the day when all New York students, regardless of their immigration status, can have a shot at achieving the American Dream."

Assemblymember Glick said "There is no question that higher education is the gateway to success. By denying students the support they need you jeopardize not only their future achievement but the economic health of our communities. Ensuring the path to higher earnings is one of the most important steps we can take to end income inequality. The DREAM Act is an investment in the future of our students and the future of our state."

Hundreds of thousands of immigrant students have received an education through New York State's public education system, yet for many of those students, higher education is out of reach. Current state law excludes undocumented immigrant students from the state's financial aid programs. The Immigration Policy Center estimates that of the more than 4,500 undocumented students who graduate from New York high schools every year, only five to ten percent pursue a college degree due to the lack of financial aid opportunities.

California, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington have already passed legislation allowing immigrant students access to state financial aid. These states have realized the immense potential of an educated workforce; that higher education increases productivity and contributes to job creation and economic growth in general.

Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO said "This is an issue that affects all of us and it is aptly named. It is about realizing the American Dream, providing a brighter future and more opportunities for all children in this state. The DREAM Act is about giving the children of immigrants an opportunity to do a bit better than their parents. 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 Heastie and Assemblyman Moya for their leadership and the Assembly Majority for their ongoing support on this critical issue."

32BJ President Hector Figueroa said "We congratulate Speaker Carl Heastie, Assemblyman Francisco Moya and their colleagues in the lower house for passing the DREAM Act, which will give so many young New Yorkers a chance to get a college education and contribute even more to our state and nation. This legislation will give undocumented students the same opportunities at a good education as their peers. We all know education is the great equalizer and all the young people in our state deserve an equal chance at success. "

George Miranda, president of Teamsters Joint Council 16 said "The DREAM Act will make college affordable for all New Yorkers, regardless of where you were born. It also signals the progressive and inclusive future for the Assembly under Speaker Carl Heastie. Making the DREAM Act law is a Teamster priority for this session, and this is an important first step. We look forward to working with the Senate and the Governor to fulfill this dream for immigrant New Yorkers."

Claritza Suarez, a Make the Road New York Youth Power Project leader and DREAMer from Brentwood, Long Island, said, "Today is an important day for DREAMers like me around New York State. Speaker Heastie, Assemblyman Moya, and many others showed that they have heard our voices, listened to our stories, and taken action to make our dreams a reality. We thank them, and now we call on the Senate to do the same. I'm in 10th Grade, and I want to be a nurse and serve my community. But, to do that, I first need the DREAM Act to pass so that I will be able to go to college. That's why I'm calling on our Senators to pass the DREAM Act now!"

Zuleima Dominguez, youth leader at Make the Road NY, and sophomore at Borough of Manhattan Community College said "I believe that education is the most important tool that anyone can have, but without financial assistance, it is too difficult to obtain this dream. I currently work in a homeless shelter in the Bronx and my dream is to finish school and return to the Bronx. I am very thankful to the leadership of Speaker Carl Heastie, Assemblyman Francisco P. Moya, and the members of the Assembly who will vote today to pass the DREAM Act. This is the year we can make our DREAM a reality."