New York’s Dream Act Is Dead: No Aid for Illegal Immigrants

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New York’s Dream Act died late Monday, but it was a close call — with a 30 to 29 vote in the state Senate and all 28 Republicans present voting against it. The Act would have helped 3,500 immigrant public school graduates head for college, making it the fifth state to do so. It would have given $25 million worth of tuition assistance in total, or as much as $5,000 per year for those undergrads going through a four year program. One detail that’s been getting a lot of attention is the way that the Act went before the Senate, with some in favor of the bill suggesting that the lack of notice and late presentation of the bill may have aided in it’s failure — according to the Associated Press. The partisan structure of the Senate has also been a surprise, as it has a Democrat majority — but with five Independent Democrats leaning towards Republican in this particular vote, according to the Washington Post.

I’m disappointed that the New York State Senate failed to pass the New York State Dream Act and denied thousands of hardworking and high-achieving students equal access to higher education and the opportunity that comes with it,” said New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (D.) “I will continue to work with supporters, stakeholders and members of the legislature to achieve this dream and build the support to pass this legislation and preserve New York’s Legacy as a progressive leader.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 17 states have specific rules for allowing undocumented students to pay state-tuition rates, and New York is among them. Four states, California, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington let undocumented students apply for and receive financial aid through the state, while both Alabama and South Carolina disallow such students from attending any public body for higher education.

At the end of the day, my responsibility is the voters of my district, even more so than to my conference,” said State Senator Ted O’Brien (D-N.Y.) to Gannett’s Albany Bureau. O’Brien, who voted against the Dream Act, went on to explain that he feels, “At a time when higher education funding is so hard to come by for so many people, this was just not an appropriate expenditure of taxpayer money.”

I want to make it very clear what this bill does,” said State Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein (D-N.Y.) to Gannett. “It allows for every New York student to have the same shot at a quality education. Nothing more or nothing less.” Others have made the issue specifically for or against helping immigrants. “I simply cannot justify spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars annually to pay for tuition for illegal immigrants,” said State Senator Mark Grisanti (R-N.Y.) to Gothamist, echoing O’Brien’s concern for legal citizen’s who are struggling. “So many law-abiding families are struggling to meet the ever-increasing costs of higher education for their own children,” he said.

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