New York – A group of young people set out on a march Monday from New York City to the state capital of Albany to demand the enactment before June of the DREAM Act, a bill that would grant economic aid to undocumented college students.
"We can't turn our backs on those students in the homestretch of their education because we have invested so much in them, some $880 billion, and they in turn are contributing to the economy of the state of New York because they work and pay taxes," Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, who accompanied the 15 young people at the beginning of the march, told Efe.
The march is planned to end April 17.
The state's Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, did not include funds to support the DREAM Act in this year's budget.
Since 2011 the state legislature has been debating the New York DREAM Act, which seeks to eliminate the requirement of having resident status to benefit from state-funded financial aid.
Jackie Cinto, one of the young demonstrators, told Efe that the purpose of the march is "to show Gov. Andrew Cuomo the urgency of including the DREAM Act in the state budget, because the future and lives of hundreds of students about to finish high school are on the line and they can't wait until next year."
She said that she had to "work and quit studying for semesters so I could pay for my education and, all things considered, New York is our home and we have the right to receive funds that our parents pay in taxes."
For his part, New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodríguez, who was also present at the beginning of the march, said that only 13 percent of the city's Latinos have a college degree, compared with 48 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
"And that happens in a city and a state of immigrants," Rodríguez said, adding that "education is a right, not a privilege, and denying it nowadays is a crime."
The councilman said that these youths "represent the hope and light of the future, and in this march they walk in the shadow of fighters of the past like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, who fought racial segregation, and those who demanded that women have the right to vote."
The New York State Youth Leadership Council, the organization promoting the DREAM Act and the march to Albany, estimated that the bill would have a cost of $1.34 for each New York taxpayer with an income of between $60,000 and $70,000 a year.
New York's DREAM Act, like similar proposals in other states, was inspired by the proposed federal DREAM Act, which would provide a path to legalization for qualified undocumented teens and young adults, but remains stalled in the U.S. Congress.