As we approach the April 1st deadline for the 2015 New York State budget, we want to remind Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, our three leaders who will be making the final budget decisions, to include the New York DREAM Act in the budget!
New York has one of the largest immigrant populations in the U.S. Over 3,600 New York State undocumented high school students graduate every year, but only a small percentage can afford to pursue a college education. With the inclusion of the NY DREAM Act, state financial aid would be extended to all students who meet requirements for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP).
It is important to remember that this bill is not just about policy. High school and college students are anxiously awaiting to hear whether they will be able to afford their next college semester, and those students graduating from a community college are waiting to hear whether they will be able to afford to go on to a four-year college.
Students, advocates, teachers, allies, and parents are concerned about whether the NY DREAM Act is in jeopardy of being excluded from the final State budget. As an advocate and dreamer myself, I understand the importance and the benefits this bill would bring to current and future high school and college students. It would not only allow undocumented students to reach their dream of obtaining a college degree, but it would benefit the future of our great State of New York.
Today, the Long Island DREAM Act Coalition held a press conference at the Long Island Federation of Labor to urge Governor Cuomo to keep his word and finally pass the NY DREAM Act after a four-year fight and stop denying undocumented students financial aid for higher education.
“I’ve come here to highlight how difficult it is for students like me to actually pursue a higher education,” said Nelson Melgar, member of the Long Island Immigrant Student Advocates. “In order for me to actually attend Hunter College I’ve had to work various jobs doing a variety of things and at a point in my life I’ve actually had to work over 20 hours a day, six days a week. I did that for over a year once. It was very difficult, and so I stand here not asking for a legislation that will benefit me personally—I’m almost done with my education—but I stand here asking for a bill that will benefit all those students who at this very moment are sitting in a classroom preparing for a college they know they cannot afford. So I ask New York State to please pass the NY DREAM Act this year, so that these students do not have to go through these things as I have.”
The press conference was sponsored by Long Island Wins, Long Island Jobs with Justice, New York Immigration Coalition, Long Island Immigrant Student Advocates, The Rural Migrant Ministry, SEPA Mujer, Empire Justice Center, and Sisters of St. Joseph.