New York City Immigrant Students Lobby For A Dream Act

It looks like another state might be following California’s example soon. Immigrant students in New York City have gotten the attention of assemblymen in the New York state assembly.

The teens from Brooklyn and Queens are pressuring the polls to pass legislation that would help young people without papers get aid for higher education.

“I’m going to tell them that people like me, we want to succeed, we want to go to college,” said Katherine Tabares, 16, a senior at International High School. She left Colombia for Corona, Queens, two years ago and overstayed a tourist visa after her mother decided to remain in the city. She’s racked up 21 college-level credits and wants to become an environmental engineer — but won’t get state aid for higher ed because she doesn’t have a green card.

Sen. Bill Perkins (D-Harlem) and Assemblyman Guillermo Linares (D-Washington Heights) have introduced a bill called the New York Dream Act that would open the state Tuition Assistance Program to all students, regardless of immigration status. Another bill, introduced by Assemblyman Francisco Moya, would set up a fundraising commission to provide private scholarships to all children of immigrants. However, the measures face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled state Senate.

Linares and Moya met the students when they arrived in the capital Tuesday morning, and there were more than a dozen meetings throughout the day. “They need to hear it from you,” said Moya (D-Corona). “Today, if you really want to make history, now’s the time.” Many of the high schoolers said they would be directly affected by the measures.

“I have to hope they’re going to pass it,” said Antonio Alarcon, 17, an undocumented Mexican senior who plans to go to Queens College next year. Last month, his parents returned to Mexico because his little brother was left alone in Veracruz after his grandmother’s death. He’s staying with his aunt and uncle in Jackson Heights. “I want to stay here, here’s my future,” he said. “I have to work and study at the same time but it’s going to be really hard.”
The non-profit Make the Road organized the lobbying trip with several city high schools. Organizer Natalia Aristizabal called it a “learning experience to fight for your rights.” Mayor Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the Board of Regents back the state Dream Act — proposed after a federal version died in the U.S. Senate.

These stories reflect a common theme where students who want to go on to college are having a difficult time if they have an issue with their status. One such student whose story took on national prominence was Ayded Reyes. Her story made the news on espnW Although she is a college student at Southwestern college in Chula Vista, California, because of her illegal status from being brought here as a child, she was picked up and faces deportation because of this status. There is no way for her to adjust her status without returning to the country she was brought from, despite having zero ties to that country.

All of these stories send one message to Congress and that is how important it is to reform the immigration system. By creating a way for these children to become U.S. citizens, we reinforce the importance of having a more educated, more socially responsible society where there are more people who contribute in a positive way.