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State Version of the 'DREAM Act' Passes New York Legislature

After years of seeing efforts to create a state Dream Act blocked by Republicans who controlled the Senate until January, the new Democrat-controlled chamber passed the legislation on Wednesday.

By Kenneth Lovett

New York college students whose parents are undocumented immigrants will soon be eligible to receive state financial aid.

After years of seeing efforts to create a state Dream Act blocked by Republicans who controlled the Senate until January, the new Democrat-controlled chamber passed the legislation on Wednesday.

The Assembly passed it a few hours later.

Gov. Cuomo said he will sign the bill, which was named after the late Sen. Jose Peralta, a Queens Democrat who pushed the Dream Act.

The bill passed at a time when the Trump administration has been cracking down on undocumented immigrants and has shut down the federal government unless the President gets $5 billion to begin building a wall across the nation's southern border.

"While the administration in Washington is committed to putting up walls, the New York State Assembly is committed to breaking them down," Speaker Carl Heastie said shortly before his chamber was set to pass the Dream Act for what he noted was the "ninth and final time."

It passed 40-20 along party lines. The Assembly passed it 90-37.

Dozens of Dreamers at the Capitol Wednesday to watch the votes in both houses celebrated the passage, saying it will make it easier for children who often grew up and went to school in New York to get a college education.

"It's a huge day," said Olivert Saldvia, a 23-year-old Dreamer with Make The Road New York, whose parents brought him to New York from Mexico when he was 11.

Saldvia, a mechanical engineering student at New York City College of Technology, said he has worked part-time jobs as a doorman to help pay his tuition, but now could be eligible for state assistance, which would be a huge boost..

Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa, the Manhattan Democrat sponsoring the bill, said its passage serves "as a symbol that (Dreamers) will be guaranteed an education and that the door for higher education is open to all children in New York State."

The emotional debate on the Senate and Assembly floors was contentious, with Republicans saying the bill favors people in the country illegally over citizens struggling to pay for college. They also argued that it would cover people in the country on student visas and even those whose parents live outside New York.

"The Dream Act is a nightmare and a slap in the face for all the hardworking taxpayers who play by the rules and struggle to afford the cost of a college education," said Sen. Daphne Jordan (R-Saratoga County).

Democrats say the immigrants who will benefit are mostly those brought to New York by their parents as children and graduated from high schools in the state.

The Dems took offense to the Republicans' use of terms like "illegals."

"You are dehumanizing these individuals," state Sen. Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx).

Sen. Luis Sepulveda, the Bronx Democrat and bill sponsor, argued that Dreamers currently return $115 million into the local and state economies while the Dream Act is expected to cost the state $27 million.

Peralta's wife, Evelyn, two kids, and his mother were in Albany to watch the vote and also met with Cuomo.

"Today my husband's dream becomes our reality," Evelyn Peralta said. "To every immigrant hearing my words, we love you, we see you and we welcome you into our American family."

With the Democrats now controlling both houses of the state Legislature, a host of Democrats said the long-awaited passage of the state Dream Act is just the first of a series of pro-immigration reforms they hope to take up.

Next on the list could be allowing undocumented immigrants to receive state driver's licenses. Others would also like to give them the right to vote, all ideas state Sen. Robert Ortt (R-Niagara Falls) blasted as "abhorrent."

(c)2019 New York Daily News

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