By Rebecca Henely
A town hall hosted last week by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) at LaGuardia Community College’s Little Theater on immigration reform and the state DREAM Act drew so many people that press and several others hoping to attend were turned away at the door.
A Quinn staffer said the small space, at the college’s E Building, at 31-10 Thomson Ave. in Long Island City, was crammed March 28 with more than 200 people. The March 28 event was the first in a three-part series of town halls on immigration reform across the city.
“The state of New York has a long legacy of championing equal educational opportunities,” Quinn said in a statement. “As the immigration debate comes to the forefront of the national spotlight, New York must once again take the lead on this important issue.”
The state Legislature has been mulling its own version of the federal DREAM Act, one of which was proposed by state Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights). New York’s version would make some state undocumented immigrants eligible to receive state financial aid for higher education. Students must have attended a high school for two years and graduated or obtained a general education diploma in New York, enroll in a state college or university and meet the state tuition assistance program requirements.
“At this town hall and in kitchen table conversations across the state, the momentum for a New York state DREAM Act is continuing to grow,” Moya said in a statement.
The town hall had the support of numerous Queens elected officials as well as some immigration advocates in the borough. Make the Road New York, based in Jackson Heights, has helped young immigrants sign up for Deferred Action, an executive order by President Barack Obama granting them relief from deportation proceedings.
“The New York state DREAM Act must become a reality during this year since it is morally wrong to deny talented undocumented students the right of equal education and equal opportunity, when the only thing we want to do is to support and improve our new home, United States,” Katherine Tabares, a youth leader for the organization, said in a statement.
LaGuardia Community College has several programs geared toward helping immigrant students and newcomers, including an English language center and a center for immigrant education and training.
“At the college, we strive to open the doors of higher education and create opportunities for all,” said LaGuardia President Dr. Gail Mellow in a statement. “Passage of the DREAM Act will permit our students to realize their academic and career dreams.”