By Bill Parry
With the start of the next state legislative session beginning in January, three Queens lawmakers renewed their call last week to pass the DREAM Act in New York.
Originally introduced in 2011, the DREAM Act, if passed, would allow undocumented immigrants who graduate from high school anywhere in the state to qualify for the New York State Tuition Assistance Program. The DREAM Act would bridge the gap for thousands of undocumented students who cannot afford to attend college, according to state Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights), state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing). The bill has passed in the Assembly numerous times, but has not made it through the Republican-controlled Senate.
“I have been fighting for years to pass the DREAM Act, a bill I introduced several times in the state Senate. It has been and it continues to be an uphill battle, but providing hope and opportunity for thousands of our DREAMers is my top priority,” Peralta said. “Because of the current anti-immigrant rhetoric, it is vital that we work together and right a wrong that is not only the right thing to do morally, but also economically.”
Peralta has said implementation of the DREAM Act would cost $27 million, amounting to an average of a few cents annually for an average New York taxpayer. He has called it an economic investment in the future, as college graduates make more money and pay more taxes than people who do not receive a higher-education degree.
“Let’s remember that a college graduate will pay an average of $60,000 more in additional state taxes over the course of his or her working lifetime than New Yorkers without a college degree. It is time to put a stop to this fear-mongering propaganda and help our hardworking college students in the State once and for all.”
Moya, the bill’s prime sponsor in the Assembly, said the quickest way to pass the DREAM Act is to once again achieve a Democratic majority in the Senate.
“Our community needs to stand and fight to flip the Senate this year, because our children’s futures can no longer wait,” he said.
Out of roughly 4,500 undocumented students who graduate from New York public schools each year only 5 to 10 percent are able to get a college education because of the financial burden, according to Peralta.
“I have always believed in higher education for everyone regardless of race, socio-economic background or immigration status,” Stavisky said. “In today’s workforce, a degree is essential for a bright future. We cannot allow any more prospective students to be ignored because they can’t afford an education. As the ranking member of the Higher Education Committee, I, too, will continue to work until every deserving student has access to a quality education.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr