BK Lawmakers Applaud Passage of Jose Peralta New York State Dream Act

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The legacy of a Queens lawmaker become a reality yesterday for New York State’s undocumented students.

That after the state legislature passed the Jose Peralta New York State Dream Act, legislation that will allow undocumented students to qualify for financial aid when attending college. Peralta, a longtime state legislator who championed the legislation, died suddenly last November just months after current State Sen. Jessica Ramos defeated him in the September Democratic Primary.

The bill is expected to impact an estimated 6,000 undocumented immigrant students statewide, making it possible for them now to eligible for general awards, performance-based awards, and New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) funds when they meet certain criteria.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Mayor Bill de Blasio

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio paid homage to the late state legislator and his longtime work as the lead sponsor of the legislation.

Cuomo will still have to sign the bill in order to enact the new amendment to New York’s state law.

“Today I met with Evelyn Peralta and the family of the late Senator Jose Peralta, champion of the Dream Act. As a key part of our Justice Agenda, we look forward to finally making it law for all New Yorkers this year, for Senator Peralta and the Dreamers,” said Cuomo.

“No student should have to forgo a college education because they can’t get financial aid. For far too long, undocumented students who are New Yorkers have faced this unjust barrier to realizing their dreams. With the passage of the Senator Jose Peralta New York State DREAM Act, I’m so glad to say that we’re finally tearing this wall down. Equal access to education is a human right and the only way we’ll meet the needs of a 21st century economy is to unleash the talents of all New Yorkers,” said de Blasio.

The bill also establishes a scholarship fund with private donations – the DREAM Fund – and expands access to the New York State College Tuition Savings (529) Program so children of undocumented immigrant parents with a valid taxpayer identification number can set up tuition savings accounts.

Brooklyn’s city and state lawmakers also applauded passage and paid homage to Peralta.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams
Assembly Member Feliz Ortiz

“It is bittersweet for this legislation to be named in the memory of my colleague José Peralta, who led the fight for years and should be here today to celebrate this milestone. We are a nation of immigrants, greater for our diversity and the hyphen that connects our citizenship to our cultural heritage. Ensuring equity in access to higher education for all of our state’s young people, regardless of their immigration status, strengthens our economy and our democracy,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams.

“We are in a new era in Albany this year, with more progressive legislation coming to the floor and passing than we’ve seen in a very, very long time. The DREAM Act will open doors for thousands of young, undocumented New Yorkers who otherwise might not have been able to pursue a college or university education – and the better employment and upward mobility opportunities that come with it – because they lacked the financial resources. We are removing this barrier today,” said Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Sunset Park, Red Hook).

Jumaane Williams
City Council Member Jumaane Williams
Jaime R. Williams
Assemblymember Jaime R. Williams
Tremaine Wright
Assemblymember Tremaine Wright

“While the  federal government is shut down as a result of Donald Trump taking immigrant families hostage, New York State is taking decisive action to expand the rights of undocumented immigrants by at last passing the DREAM Act. While Donald Trump and Republicans are intent on forcing people into the shadows and out of the country, our state is taking a stand for undocumented New Yorkers. I commend and thank the legislature for their swift action this term to make the DREAM Act a priority,” said City Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood).

“New York has long been a symbol of hope and opportunity for immigrants coming to this country.Immigrants are facing difficult and uncertain times under the current federal administration, but this legislation says loud and clear that here in New York, we know immigrants are a critical thread in the fabric of our society and our economy,” said Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights), Chair of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus.

“This bill is about fairness and about doing right by the ‘Dreamers’ who’ve helped make New York the vibrant and diverse place that it is today. Instead of putting up barriers to unjustly punish children who did nothing wrong, we’re tearing them down to ensure all students – regardless of immigration status – are able to pursue a college degree,” said Assemblywoman Jaime Williams (D-Canarsie, Georgetown, Mill Basin, Marine Park, Bergen Beach, Gerritsen Beach).

Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis

However, not all lawmakers agree with the measure, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R,C,I,Ref-Brooklyn, Staten Island), a strong opponent believes the bill is unfair to U.S. citizens who already struggle with college tuition and are in student debt.

“I feel it is both misguided and unfair to provide individuals who are in our country unlawfully with free tuition and tuition assistance. The Legislature and governor’s actions show a strong lack of compassion toward the hardworking citizens who pay taxes, take on student loans and struggle to pay for their education,” said Malliotakis.

The bill is one of a number of progressive measures that, enabled by a new Senate Democratic majority, have passed since the start of the legislative session earlier this month. 

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