DACA Protest (253992)
Credit: Bill Moore photo

New York State’s legislature gave DREAMers a reason to celebrate.

Last week, the New York State Senate passed the José Peralta New York State DREAM Act (named after the late senator). The bill gives undocumented children who are already students in New York State the ability to qualify for state aid for higher education, create a Dream Fund for college scholarship opportunities and enter college saving programs.

New York State Sen. and bill sponsor Luis Sepúlveda said allowing undocumented young New Yorkers access to financial assistance will help them get degrees, employment and the ability to support the economy and their families.

“This essential piece of legislation will create new pathways to higher education for our bright undocumented students who form an important part of our American family,” said Sepúlveda in a statement. “Immigrant workers make approximately 17 percent of the overall labor force in the U.S. In our state that number is much higher. Immigrants are 25 percent of our labor force and add roughly $100 billion in consumer power to our economy yearly. Immigrant students will now reach even greater heights because of the improved access to a world-class education.”

According to the Center for American Progress, children protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals would contribute close to $400 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product over the next decade. Elected officials who represent areas with a significant number of undocumented workers praised the State Legislature for its actions.

“With passage of the DREAM Act, New York is sending a strong message to the Trump administration that we welcome immigrants and America is a nation of immigrants,” stated Congressman Adriano Espaillat. “Passage of the DREAM Act will allow young immigrants across the state, many of whom are nurses, doctors, teachers and members of our Armed Forces, opportunities and a shot at the American Dream.”

“As we have learned in the Bronx over the years, giving undocumented students access to quality higher education boosts our economy, and it helps us retain the best talent to help the Bronx and New York State to continue to flourish, both economically and culturally,” added Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. in a statement. “We are a nation built on the hard work of immigrants, and thanks to the José Peralta DREAM Act our immigrant communities will remain a vital part of New York State.”

The fate of undocumented Americans has been a source of controversy under President Donald Trump’s reign. New York’s passage of a DREAM Act is part of a series of rebukes of the president’s federal immigration policies and agenda.

“The rhetoric in Washington surrounding immigration is discriminatory and inherently un-American,” stated New York State Sen. Jamaal Bailey. “In New York State, we understand the value of immigrants and their families.”

According to the New York State Youth Leadership Council and NYU Law School’s Immigrant Rights Clinic, New York’s DREAM Act would affect 146,000 young people who attend New York public schools but don’t qualify for financial aid.

Although the Republican legislators, such as New York State Sen. James Seward, believe that the DREAM Act takes taxpayer money away from legal residents, organizations such as the New York Immigration Coalition want Albany to “dream bigger.”

“The passage of the Jose Peralta New York State DREAM Act is an incredible win for undocumented youth and a powerful tribute to the late state senator, but it’s only a drop in the bucket,” stated Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “Senator Peralta was a champion for immigrant communities, and the DREAM Act is only a fraction of his legacy. New York State must do more to protect and empower immigrant New Yorkers in the wake of unprecedented attacks on immigrants by the Trump administration, by expanding access to driver’s licenses, committing $40 million to census outreach and education and increasing funding for legal services statewide.”

“Immigrant New Yorkers deserve nothing less than a bold legislative agenda in 2019 to foster their growth and safety,” concluded Choi.