April 13, 2018 By Tara Law
State Senator Jose Peralta held a press conference Friday to urge his colleagues in the State Senate to pass the DREAM Act, which would give undocumented childhood arrivals access to financial aid for college.
Standing in front of the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Peralta said that the time had come for the bill– first introduced in 2013–to be passed by the senate.
The bill has been stalled in the senate for years, since the GOP controls the chamber and is opposed to it. The GOP has had a firm grip on the senate aided until earlier this month by a break-away group of Democrats that included Peralta. While the splinter group–known as the Independent Democratic Conference– has reunited with mainstream Democrats, the GOP remains in charge by a slim margin.
The bill, which has been passed by the Democrat-controlled Assembly, would provide DREAMers with access to the state’s Tuition Assistance Program, which can subsidize the cost of college by up to $5,164 on an annual basis.
Of the 4,500 undocumented students who graduate from New York high schools each year, only 5 to 10 percent attend college, according to Peralta’s office. Many don’t attend because they can’t afford it, he added.
To qualify for the program, students need to prove that they have attended a New York high school for at least two years before graduating.
Peralta said it was an injustice that DREAMers don’t have access to this aid.
“It’s time to right this wrong, especially now, when New York is under attack from the White House. Amid this political climate, the State has become the front lines to protect New Yorkers,” Peralta said.
Peralta said it is worth the cost to taxpayers since undocumented immigrants contribute $1.1 billion in state and local taxes, according to the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy.
“Making the DREAM a reality would cost the average taxpayer 87 cents, not even a dollar. This is an investment, since the average college graduate pays every year about $4,000 more in state taxes than New Yorkers without a college degree,” he said.
Peralta’s opponent in this year’s state senate race, Jessica Ramos, was critical of Peralta and said he had failed to help DREAMers in recent years. She said his affiliation with the Independent Democratic Conference has played a part in why the DREAM Act has yet to be passed.
“For two straight years, Peralta blocked the DREAM Act by conceding power to the Republicans. Now, with an election looming, Peralta has decided he is a Democrat who will fight for the DREAM Act once again,” Ramos said. “Queens residents won’t fall for this bait and switch—it’s too little, too late.”