Working as an intern at Long Island Wins, I have been given the opportunity to fight for the rights of my fellow immigrants. I know first hand the daily struggle that immigrants face, specifically undocumented students, as I myself used to be an undocumented student.
Currently the struggle for undocumented students is finding ways to fund their higher education. This is where the Long Island DREAM Act Coalition has been at the forefront of the immigration movement on Long Island. The coalition made up of various organizations, including Long Island Wins, has set their goal of fighting for the passing of the New York DREAM Act. This bill would implement an addition to the Tuition Assistance Program (otherwise know as TAP) that would allow access for undocumented students to be eligible for TAP. The addition would not take away from current TAP recipients, but would be a low annual cost of only 87 cents per taxpayer.
Currently the bill has been halted twice on the floor of the New York State Senate, with the most recent halt only needing two votes to pass. Following Governor Cuomo’s re-election he stated that he would make the NY DREAM Act a priority. He included the NY DREAM Act in his 2015 budget, but tied it to an education tax credit giving a tax break to those donating to private schools, which lost support from some NY DREAM Act advocates. Neither ended up included in the final budget.
Since then, the Long Island DREAM Act Coalition has decided to take a look at the nine Long Island Senators who all voted against the bill. We are starting with the new Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan, whose office is located in Smithtown. We participated in a door-to-door event in which we walked through the district of Senator Flanagan asking for his constituents to support the NY DREAM Act. After collecting signatures from his constituents, we delivered the signatures of support to his office.
The day we were there, Senator Flanagan was not in office, however, his assistant was, and accepted our signatures. The Long Island DREAM Act Coalition and Flanagan’s office had a lengthy discussion on the issue. His assistant was surprised at the comment from Peggy Fort, from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook, that the majority of Smithtown, Sachem, and Three Village, where she resides, actually support the passage of the NY DREAM Act.
Watch Fort’s full response here:
While we left with hope that our signatures will have an impact, we also left with reservations about the Senator’s current position on the issue.
The coalition will continue to work towards the passing of the NY DREAM Act, preparing rallies and events in order to support undocumented students and create opportunities for their higher education, which builds a better Long Island for all.
The legislative session starts on January 2016. Keep checking in for further updates!