When the Republican-led NY State Senate failed to pass the DREAM Act by a razor-thin margin last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo made the legislation a pivotal part of his re-election campaign and promised to include the bill in his next budget.
Cuomo won, and when he again touted the DREAM Act in January’s State of the State address, New York DREAMers finally saw a light at the end of the tunnel. But just barely two months later, Cuomo appears to be ready to walk it all back after stating he’ll drop the DREAM Act from his budget.
After Republican and Democratic leaders could not agree on a proposal that linked immigration reform with an education tax credit in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposed budget, the governor said on Tuesday that both would be dropped as negotiations continued.
His statement and the impasse in Albany signaled yet another dead end for the Dream Act, the measure that would allow high school graduates who are undocumented immigrants to apply for state financial aid for college.
Advocates believed that the bill stood a better chance of becoming a reality this time than it had in the past three years. Mr. Cuomo’s linking the two measures was seen as a way to appeal to both Democrats who had been supportive of helping undocumented immigrants and Republicans who favored the tax credit, which was meant to encourage donations to public schools and to scholarship funds for students at private and parochial schools.
But when it became clear that there was not enough legislative support for either measure, Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, said he decided to remove the items from the budget talks. “We’re nowhere close to an agreement,” Mr. Cuomo said. “So it was pointless in the budget.”
Immigration advocates are furious over the impasse, and during the past several days groups like Make The Road New York, the New York Immigration Coalition, and DREAM Action Coalition have been targeting the offices of both Cuomo and State Senate Majority Leader Sean Skelos, a Republican (who apparently responded to requests from protesters for a conversation by locking his office doors shut).
Most of Skelos’s caucus has already been on record as opposing the DREAM Act, but it’s the double-speak from Cuomo that has kept a consistent target on his back. Advocates have noted Cuomo ran for reelection on a promise of making the DREAM Act a part of his budget, even touting the bill on pamphlets all the way up until Election Day, and mentioning DREAM during his victory speech that night.
Members of Cuomo’s party are just as upset. Democratic State Senator Jose Peralta slammed Cuomo’s decision, writing in a statement that “Governor argued in favor of making the DREAM Act a reality during the Somos El Futuro Conference” in Albany just this past weekend. And then just three days ago, Cuomo dedicated an entire self-penned op-ed in the New York Post to the financial and educational merits of the DREAM Act.
What a difference just a few days can make.
In light of Washington D.C.’s immigration reform gridlock, states across the nation have taken their own steps to improve the daily lives of immigrants and their families. At least 17 states currently allow undocumented students to pay the in-state tuition rate, with Washington State, California, Texas, and New Mexico having passed legislation allowing DREAMers to apply for financial aid as well.
New York has a chance to join these states in giving young undocumented students a chance to fulfill their dreams. And with perhaps no other state having a history as immigrant-rich as New York, it really should be expected. Now it’s just up to Cuomo to finish fulfilling New York’s promise — and his own.