After over two years of pressure by immigrant advocates, the New York State Assembly is now supporting a bill that would make college financial aid available to illegal immigrants. This new bill would make many state tuition-assistant programs open to illegal immigrants and would also create a private fund to provide scholarships to illegal immigrants for college and university attendance.
Basics of the Legislation
Many of the elements included in this new legislation have previously been introduced into the Assembly in bits and pieces, but never made it into the law. As the measures continuously failed, immigrant advocates poured more effort into campaigns for a comprehensive, streamlined policy that promotes one measure with several facets. Democrats introduced the bill as increased national efforts are focused on immigration.
As President Obama promises to overhaul the national immigration system, Democratic lawmakers in New York have stated that they fully support this state education bill. State Senate Republicans and the Governor, however, have not made a public statement about support.
Sheldon Silver, Assembly speaker, states that this is the time to take a strong stance in favor of providing education help to illegal immigrants. He feels that many of the immigrants who will benefit were moved to this country as young children and have been raised as Americans. He also believes that when New York makes a move, the rest of the country will follow.
If New York passes this bill, it will become the fourth state to take such measures. The bill will require illegal immigrants to meet requirements for eligibility, such as attendance at a New York high school for at least two years followed by graduation or an equivalency certificate. Students will also be required to have lived with parents while attending high school.
The bill is tentatively called the Dream Act, named after the stalled legislation in federal Congress that will provide a citizenship path to illegal immigrants. Although the name is the same, the New York bill will not provide options for attaining legal status. Chung-Wha Hong, director of the New York Immigration Coalition, states that the bill is of high quality because it includes all important ideas and states clear leadership.
While the bill has strong Democratic support, there is no way to predict how it will be received by the Governor and Republicans. Only time will tell if the bill will be passed into New York State law and how it will impact financial aid for illegal immigrants throughout the rest of the country.