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Activists demand Albany approve Dream Act

Students and community activists urge the state Legislature to vote in favor of the New York Dream Act on the steps of Queens Borough Hall. Photo by Joe Anuta
TimesLedger Newspapers

Time is running out for lawmakers to pass the New York Dream Act before the summer break, according to community activists who rallied in front of Queen Borough Hall Monday.

The state Legislature has 22 sessions remaining between May 3 and June 21 to pass a law that would grant undocumented immigrants access to public funds to help pay for college.

“It gives all students, including undocumented students, the chance to live up to their full potential,” said S.J. Jung, head of the Flushing nonprofit the MinKwon Center.

Jung and a consortium of community activist groups, called the Dream Coalition, organized the rally in order to put the pressure on Albany to get the act passed before the break.

Students who wish to apply for state funds through the state Tuition Assistance Program currently are required to provide proof that they are legal residents of the country.

The Dream Act would waive this clause at what Senate Democrats estimate is an annual cost of under $1 million to New York. Proponents of the act estimate there are currently about 300,000 undocumented students in all grades in the state.

City Comptroller John Liu, an immigrant himself, joined the rally and stressed the fact that children seeking higher education are likely to contribute back to the state’s economy, which is a boon for all residents.

“Young people and students are the best asset we have for our future,” Liu said. “To deny immigrant students a real opportunity for higher education is really to deny us all the potential value they have to offer to New York City and state.”

The Dream Act is just one of two pieces of legislation circulating in Albany.

Another bill would create what is known as the Dream Fund.

The fund is basically the private counterpart to the Dream Act. The legislation would create a commission to raise private funds for scholarships and would open tax-free education savings accounts.

Borough President Helen Marshall, along with every other borough president except for Staten Island’s James Molinaro, signed a letter of support for the legislation, which they estimated would help at least 10,000 City University of New York students alone.

The Dream Fund bill was set to be voted on this week, while the Dream Act bill has not yet been scheduled for the floor. While it enjoys wide support in Queens, the bill does not currently have enough co-sponsors to pass, although others may decide in its favor once it is brought to a vote.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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