Many felt it wasn’t the right time, but New York state Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein thought it was.
He was wrong.
Last Monday night, the state Senate rejected a bill that would have provided tuition assistance to undocumented college students. Falling two votes short of the 32 needed for passage, the Dream Act could’ve made a significant impact on the 8,000 college-age immigrants who were brought to this country by their parents as kids.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressed his disappointment with the results in a statement, but he said he’d continue to advocate for the passage of the Dream Act.
“I will continue to work with supporters, stakeholders and members of the Legislature to achieve this dream and build the support to pass this legislation and preserve New York’s legacy as a progressive leader,” said Cuomo.
Other elected officials weren’t as diplomatic in their reaction.
“Today, as the New York state Dream Act was brought to the Senate floor, not a single Republican voted in favor of this critical legislation,” Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in a statement after the bill failed. “Senate Co-Leader Klein was incapable of achieving the bipartisan support that was essential for the Dream Act to pass due to the current composition of the state Senate.”
State Sen. Bill Perkins said that a dream was deferred “despite the fact that a majority of senators present voted for the Dream Act; the final vote was 30 for the measure and 29 against. A majority generally rules—in the schoolyard, in the boardroom and at the ballot box—just not in the New York state Senate, where a coalition rules.”
Klein’s Independent Democratic Conference allies with Senate Republicans, forming the chamber’s governing coalition. Klein has all but said that the Senate majority isn’t interested in revisiting the Dream Act.
“Few of us can imagine the heartbreak that the nearly 4,000 dreamers who graduate from high school in our state each year are experiencing,” said state Sen. Adriano Espaillat in a statement. “Few of us can imagine the frustration and anger that bright young New Yorkers who have lived in this country virtually their entire lives feel every day they are denied the chance to succeed through hard work. Few of us can imagine how much good would be accomplished through the modest investment required by the Dream Act.”
But activists aren’t taking the defeat lying down. With the desire to have the government meet their needs, more than 400 people took to Albany on Wednesday, protesting at the state Capitol and demanding fair funding for public education, the eventual passage of the Dream Act, a ban on hydrofracking and the prevention of billions of dollars in tax breaks for wealthy New Yorkers.
Fifty-nine people were arrested.