The legacy of beloved former State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Queens) has become a reality for New York State’s undocumented students.
On Wednesday, the State passed the Jose Peralta New York State Dream Act, legislation that will allow undocumented students to qualify for financial aid when attending college.
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.
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.
The state’s first DREAMer to elected to the New York State Legislature, Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz (D-Corona, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights) applauded the passage but sees it as a starting point for gaining more protections for immigrants.
“As the first DREAMer to be elected into the New York State Legislature, I am proud to co-sponsor the José Peralta DREAM Act, an important step in creating equity for our immigrant community,” said Cruz.
“But our struggle continues—we have the responsibility to continue fighting for additional protections, including drivers’ licenses for all, funding to ensure everyone is counted in the next census, and funding for comprehensive legal services to provide immigrants with effective representation when they are subject to the abuses of the current presidential administration.”
State Senator Jessica Ramos (D-Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside), the rookie lawmaker who beat Peralta in a contentious race last fall, applauded the measure she hopes will help students across the state realize their educational goals.
“I am thrilled that the State Senate passed the Jose Peralta Dream Act yesterday and that I was able to share that moment with Dreamers from my district who traveled to Albany. They have been fighting for this moment for years, and it is their activism that brought us here,” said Ramos.
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.
“These students are already contributing to their communities, and passing the Dream Act means affording them the opportunity to realize their dreams. The New York State legislature affirmed that education is a right, not a privilege,” added Ramos.