Published June 20, 2012
Albany, New York – It was called DREAM Act Lite by some – it was a New York state measure allowing undocumented students to apply for state-funded financial aid to attend college.
But the DREAM Fund bill, as it was known, was met with defeat Wednesday after the state Senate’s Republican majority refused to bring it to the floor. The measure had passed the state Assembly, where Democrats have a majority.
The measure was pushed hard by the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus.
New York has an estimated 100,000 undocumented immigrants who could benefit from such measures as the DREAM Fund and the DREAM Act, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
Nationwide, about 1.4 million could be affected by measures that would give reprieve to undocumented immigrants brought here illegally when they were minors, or who came with visas that then expired.
The national DREAM Act is a long-sought but never enacted plan to establish a path toward citizenship for young people who came to the United States illegally, have stayed out of trouble, and who have attended college or served in the military.
DREAM is an acronym for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act. The DREAM Act failed in the U.S. Senate after it passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.
New York lawmakers are finishing several bills Wednesday, including the final votes on creating a new agency to better protect disabled people in state facilities from abuse and neglect.
Diverse bills being considered as the session winds down include one that would define autism.
The defeat of the DREAM Fund measure comes just days after the Obama administration said last week that it will stop deporting for a period of two years and begin granting work permits to younger undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives.
The election-year initiative addresses a top priority of an influential Latino electorate that has been vocal in its opposition to administration deportation policies.
The policy change bypasses Congress and partially achieves the goals of the DREAM Act.
DREAM Act activists hailed it as a partial win. Thousands of students, who have marched in Washington and held dozens of rallies across the country, still hope they can be granted a more permanent legal status but say they are glad they no longer have to live in fear.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the new policy one week before President Barack Obama is scheduled to address the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials' annual conference in Orlando, Fla. Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney is scheduled to speak to the group on Thursday.
Under the administration plan, undocumented immigrants will be immune from deportation if they were brought to the United States before they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED, or served in the military.
They also can apply for a work permit that will be good for two years with no limits on how many times it can be renewed.
Elizabeth Llorente can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org