Updated 11:36 PM EST, Mon, Dec 09, 2019

Immigration Reform News 2014: New York Senate Kills the NY DREAM Act

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The dream to pursue higher education for thousands of students in New York was shot down Monday after state legislatures defeated the state DREAM Act. The bill would have granted the children of undocumented immigrants the opportunity to apply for financial aid in order to attend a private or public college.

Supporters of the DREAM Act needed 32 votes in order to pass the bill into law, but legislation was struck down in a 30 to 29 mostly partisan vote. Had it passed, New York would have become the fifth state to open up state tuition assistance to children of undocumented immigrants. It also would have benefited around 3,500 public school graduates.

"It continues to be a nightmare for the DREAMers," said Democratic state Sen. Jose Peralta, according to the New York Daily News.

Along with all of the state Republicans who were present for the vote, Democratic Sens. Ted O'Brien of Rochester and Simcha Felder of Brooklyn also voted against it.

"At the end of the day, my responsibility is the voters of my district, even more so than to my conference," Sen. Ted O'Brien told Gannett's Albany Bureau. "At a time when higher education funding is so hard to come by for so many people, this was just not an appropriate expenditure of taxpayer money."

In response to the bill's defeat, N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement saying, "I'm disappointed that the New York State Senate failed to pass the New York State Dream Act and denied thousands of hardworking and high-achieving students equal access to higher education and the opportunity that comes with it. 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," reports the Washington Post.

Even though Democrats are in the majority in the chamber, a breakaway group of five members of the Independent Democratic Conference has joined with Republicans to lead the Senate. That coalition brought the closely watched bill to the floor late in the day with little notice, a move that supporters said helped contribute to the bill's failure. Nonetheless, all five members of the Independent Democratic Conference voted for the bill.

"It certainly seems that it was bought up to fail, given the outcome," said Sen. Michael Gianaris, D-Queens, adding that the vote "made a mockery of a very important issue."

The proposal included $25 million in tuition assistance for undocumented students and up to $5,000 a year for undergraduates attending four-year institutions.

While it is not known exactly how many would be eligible for the need-based assistance, a report issued by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli estimates that around 8,300 students in the CUNY and SUNY systems would qualify.

Since the DREAM Act was first introduced three years ago, opponents have argued that the bill amounts to an improper use of taxpayer money and takes away from students who are citizens. Critics also note that New York is one of 16 states that already allow those students to pay in-state tuition at public colleges.

"I simply cannot justify spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars annually to pay for tuition for illegal immigrants when so many law-abiding families are struggling to meet the ever-increasing costs of higher education for their own children," said Republican state Sen. Mark Grisanti.

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