By Tom Momberg
As the most diverse county in the country with nearly half of the population foreign-born, Queens residents likely have the most to gain from the Dream Act, if and when it is passed.
The bill, which would have provided tuition assistance to undocumented immigrant college students, has been strongly opposed by a Republican-controlled state Senate. But the bill has been pushed by the Assembly to be included in the state budget since negotiations for the last fiscal year. Despite the Assembly’s efforts, the Dream Act was left out once again.
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) was the lead sponsor of the Senate Dream Act Bill, a version of which was included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s initial executive budget. He blamed the Republicans for the bill’s exclusion from the final budget.
“Another year of false fear-mongering propaganda led by the Senate majority, perpetuating an intolerant and xenophobic ideology that the sky will fall if we allow these undocumented kids to receive money from the Tuition Assistance Program,” Peralta said in a statement.
Both the Dream Act, championed by the Assembly in budget negotiations, and the Education Tax Credit, promoted by the Senate to encourage private donations to public schools and scholarship funds, were dropped a week before the April 1 budget deadline. Cuomo said it had to happen because the two houses were nowhere close to an agreement at the time.
Lawmakers anticipate both initiatives will come back up during the regular legislative session, and the governor vowed to continue to push for the Dream Act regardless.
Because many of the bill’s advocates are afraid it will not overcome a Republican majority in the Senate as a stand-alone measure, Peralta called on Cuomo to use his political clout to see it through by the end of the current session.
“I will do anything in my power to help Gov. Cuomo make the Dream Act a reality and right a wrong for our Dreamers,” he said.
The bill’s lead sponsor, Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights), said he too hopes that the governor will use his muscle as the state’s chief executive to bring Republicans around to negotiating more on the Dream Act.
“The people of Queens understand how important the Dream Act is for our state and our students and they expected more,” Moya said in a statement. “We had the chance to change the lives of generations of New Yorkers, but the short-sighted opposition of Senator Dean Skelos and his Republican colleagues has delayed the dream once again.”
Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomb