By Naeisha Rose
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) joined Dreamers and their advocates last week at a rally held at the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park to call on the New York State Senate to pass the Dream Act and expand the Tuition Assistance Program to undocumented college students.
The Dream Act was a bill that was introduced in 2001 that would have given eligible undocumented individuals who were brought to the country as minors a pathway to legal status. The 2017 version of the bill offers a three-step pathway to U.S. citizenship through college, work or the armed forces if eligible.
The demonstration comes weeks after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the dissolution of the Independent Democratic Conference and the reunification of most of those Democratic Senate members with mainline Democrats. The mending of the party could improve the chances for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, the latest version of the Dream Act.
The IDC was a coalition of eight Democrats, including Peralta, who partnered with the Senate Republicans in the hope of sharing power with conservatives and passing progressive legislation as the GOP held a majority in Albany.
Peralta hopes that the reunification and the April 24 special elections for state Senate seats in Westchester and the Bronx will give Senate Democrats the magical 32 seats they need to have a majority in the 63-seat chamber and help the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act pass before the final weeks of the legislative session comes to a close in June.
“In this past session we brought up [the DREAM Act] in a hostile amendment, but because we did not have enough votes, it did not pass on the floor,” said Peralta. “Now on the state level, to the congressional level and everyone on the ground there is a unity. There are people moving together forward as one as Democrats.”
The night before the April 12rally Jessica Ramos, a Jackson Heights resident who left Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration to challenge Peralta for his District 13 seat, sent out a mass email with a fact sheet describing how the senator’s alignment with Republicans in 2016 was one of the factors behind the DREAM Act not passing.
“Jose Peralta pretends to care about Queens’ immigrant families while undermining the Dream Act every step of the way,” Ramos said. “For two straight years, Peralta blocked the Dream Act by conceding power to the Republicans. Now, with an election looming, Peralta has decided he is a Democrat who will fight for the Dream Act once again. Queens’ residents won’t fall for this bait and switch — it’s too little, too late.”
Ramos accused Peralta of faking concern about the lack of passage of the bill, which was shot down by Republicans in the Senate he supported earlier this year, because of a hostile amendment he inserted.
A hostile amendment is a revision on a bill aimed to derail the stated intent and purpose of a resolution, according to www.nysen
“As the daughter of immigrants, I’m deeply offended by Peralta’s empty lip service on the DREAM Act,” said Ramos. “Immigrant families are suffering because of Peralta’s dangerous alliance with the party of Trump, and I’m running to put an end to Peralta’s charade and take real action on the Dream Act.”
Peralta said that Ramos is just full of talk.
“Any of my opponents can talk about they will do this or they will do that, but what are you doing to put the energy and the legwork to make it happen?” Peralta said. “Are you lobbying legislators? Are you talking to Democrats, Republicans and Independents? Are you putting in the hours and negotiating what it is to get to that magic number of 32. If you are not, then you are just talking the talk because you are running for office.”
The Dreamers who stood in the sweltering heat next to the Unisphere were less concerned about Peralta’s role in the IDC and more interested in getting the bill passed and help fellow Dreamers succeed.
“We support the senator’s legislation to pass the Dream Act,” said Franco Arroyo, the executive assistant of the Dominico-American Society of Queens, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of Queens residents.
The organization has its headquarters in Corona and many of the students who are apart of its youth development program are undocumented.
“We see that the [kids] have fire in their eyes, and we want to support themso that they continue their education, however, many of them are unaware of the situations they are in as their families may not have told them about their status,” Arroyo said. “We need to fight for the Dream Act. We need to fight for the next generation of leaders.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose