State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside) and others stood near the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park last Friday and called on Albany lawmakers to pass the DREAM Act.
Peralta emphasized that passing the legislation—often failing to pass in Albany—is possible in a “different era compared to a few weeks ago.” He noted that there existed unity among Democrats and added upcoming special elections would add more Democratic lawmakers to the fold for a possible number of 32 State Senators.
“We are at the front lines when it comes to the DREAMers. What are we going to do to protect DREAMers?” he said.
The bill would allow high school students to qualify for financial aid when attending college. The State Senator highlighted students face economic barriers because of their undocumented students. This causes problems when youths when they want to complete their college education.
“You can’t have a dream if you don’t have DREAMers,” he said.
In addition to Peralta, a few advocates spoke in favor of the DREAM Act. Isaac Montiel, the co-president of CUNY DREAMers, an organization of undocumented students at CUNY, explained his fears of asking for a permanent position at his job in the New York City Department of Education. This stemmed from the uncertainty over his Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals status.
“The moment I lose that protections, I will no longer have a work permit, and I will lose my job,” he said.
He understood no legislation would be perfect yet urged other lawmakers to pass it to protect the thousands of undocumented students in New York.
Also in attendance was the co-founder of the CUNY DREAMers Monica Sibri. Sibri felt frustrated with the lack of movement with the legislation over the past few years and emphasized action over rhetoric when it came to the DREAM Act.
“Are we the state of Trump or are we the state of immigrants?” Sibri said.
Maria Jose, a student at Lehman College, recalled the fear during high school because of lack of financial aid over her student.
She added that, despite the climate in Washington toward immigrants, undocumented students should not feel alone.
“I am here standing among supporters to say do not be afraid,” she said.
During a question-and-answer period, State Sen. Peralta said there existed discussions with the Governor Andrew Cuomo to expand the Excelsior Scholarship program. This provides coverage of CUNY and SUNY tuition for full-time students not including undocumented immigrants.
He stressed that before focusing on this program, passage of the DREAM Act must come first.
“We want to ensure that there are no more limitations for those who want education,” he said.