NY Assembly Speaker Proposes Statewide Bill to Help Immigrants Go to College


Sheldon Silver strives to start a NY DREAM Act to provide financial assistance to undocumented immigrant students.

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New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Long Island college students have stepped out this week to voice their support for New York to adapt their own bill to help young undocumented immigrants attend college.

The DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act has been introduced in the Assembly and the Senate, and would offer financial relief to undocumented students in New York.  These students would be entitled to state educational programs such as tuition assistance programs (TAP), higher education opportunity programs, collegiate science and technology programs, grants, and low-interest loans based on financial need.  Undocumented students would also be able to enroll in New York State college tuition savings programs so that they can save up help afford higher education.

The bill was originally proposed to Congress on August 17, but has not yet made progress. To encourage action, Silver has proposed that the state help lead the country in education for undocumented minors by starting an NY DREAM Act.

"Young people, who for all practical purposes have been raised in the United States as Americans and know no other country, should not be marginalized because of their unwitting immigration status," said Assemblyman Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood), who co-sponsored the bill with Silver.

Undocumented immigrant students and those who support them turned out at a rally at Nassau Community College in Garden City on Thursday with signs reading “Education is a human right” and “Governor Cuomo: Stand on the side of students.”

New York State currently offers in-state tuition to immigrant youth at city and state universities, but students are not eligible for financial aid programs.

Silver hopes that be urging New York lawmakers to form their own DREAM Act, Congress will be encouraged to pass the nationwide bill.

“This is about children who, through no fault of their own, are in this country,” Silver commented to CBS.  “They know no other country. They’ve come here, many of them, when they’re 2 and 3-years-old. They have been given a new status by President Obama just recently. They will likely be here for the rest of their lives. We are investing in making them productive citizens of New York.”

To qualify for the programs, students would have had to attend a New York high school for at least two years and graduated or obtained a GED, have entered the United States before age 18 and be under the age of 35, enroll in a New York college or university, and meet Higher Education Services Corporation’s requirements for TAP.