Long Island DREAMers call for Senator Flanagan’s support for the New York DREAM Act

Press conference at Touro Law School.
Press conference at Touro Law School.

Long Island supporters for the New York DREAM Act are urging New York State Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan to support this bill and to include it as a priority in the Senate budget. During a press conference last Wednesday at Touro Law School in Central Islip, students and advocates said they are tired of waiting.

Constituents from Senator Flanagan’s district who support the DREAM Act have been requesting a meeting with the Senator, but after months of trying they have not had any response to their request.

Three weeks ago, advocates and a group of student organizations from Touro Law School sent a letter to Senator Flanagan asking him to support the legislation. At the press conference they said they did not get any answer from the Senator. The DREAM Act would benefit many students at Touro, Senator Flanagan’s alma mater.

“We are going into the fifth year that the New York DREAM Act has not passed so it’s about time,” said Laura Lemus, Coordinator of Special Events for Long Island Wins “There are students that really want to have an education and give back to their communities and it’s about time that they get that opportunity.”

And now the DREAMers are taking the next step. Last week a group of advocates delivered an invitation to Senator Flanagan for a Town Hall meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 17, at the Setauket Presbyterian Church in East Setauket. Community members want the opportunity to meet with the Senator and explain why the legislation is important to them.

Richard Koubek, a Community Outreach Coordinator for Long Island Jobs with Justice said at the press conference that as the former chair of the Senate education committee, Senator Flanagan should know better. “We’ve gone to his office, and even did a demonstration outside his office, brought him hundreds of letters,” Koubek said. “While he [Flanagan] was chair of the Education Committee, Senator Flanagan did nothing, now he’s the majority leader and he’s still doing nothing.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo has included the DREAM Act in his budget proposal this year and it is also a priority in the Assembly’s draft budget, which is why supporters for the bill are calling out Senator Flanagan to include it as a priority in the Senate budget as well. Advocates believe Senator Flanagan’s support, as the Majority Leader in the Senate, is crucial to include the DREAM Act in the final 2016-2017 budget.

“We already count on the support from the Assembly, we need the Senate to step it up and realize that scapegoating immigrants and blaming all the problems on immigrant youth is not going to change things; we need to support our immigrant youth,” said Francis Madi, Regional Outreach Associate on Long Island for the New York Immigration Coalition.

The New York DREAM Act would allow undocumented students who qualify, to have access to state funds for college tuition, under the Tuition Assistant Program (TAP). Since it was first introduced in 2011, the NYS Assembly has passed it year after year but the NYS Senate has continuously opposed the bill.

“Every Child deserves a future and an education regardless of immigration status,” said Guisela Marroquin of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “We support equal education for everyone and are disappointed by the politics in Albany. It’s hard standing here another year knowing it hasn’t been passed”.

The support of the Long Island Senators is critical to the passing of the New York DREAM Act as they hold 22% of the political power in New York State.