March 24, 2011
A bill proposed yesterday in the New York State Senate would revive parts of federal legislation that failed to make it through the U.S. Congress last year. That legislation, known as the DREAM Act, would have provided a path to citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants. Following its defeat in Congress, the New York State Youth Leadership Council, a youth-led nongovernmental organization dedicated to promoting equal opportunity for immigrant youth, mobilized an aggressive campaign to introduce and garner support for a state version of the bill.
While not offering a path to citizenship, the new bill, sponsored by Democratic State Senator Bill Perkins of Manhattan, would offer young undocumented immigrants certain rights and privileges currently afforded only to legal residents and citizens—including the authorization to hold certain state jobs and to apply for a driver’s license. While undocumented immigrants in New York already qualify for in-state tuition fees, the bill would enable them to apply for state financial assistance in the form of grants, loans and scholarships. It would also provide them with access to health care.
To qualify, the young person would have to have arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, lived in New York for two years and be under the age of 35. He or she would also be required to have completed at least two years of a four-year degree at a state college or university, two years in the New York National Guard or nearly 1,000 hours of community service.
The proposal of the bill comes amid a recent wave of state legislative measures designed to address unauthorized immigration—some meant to crack down on and others meant to expand the rights of undocumented immigrants—after the federal government failed to do so last year. Co-sponsor Daniel L. Squadron (D-Brooklyn) says the new legislation would not circumvent the federal provision that employers cannot willingly hire undocumented immigrants, but “could potentially expand the state’s options.”
Announcement of the new legislation also follows President Obama’s recent trip to Latin America, in which he reiterated his support for comprehensive immigration reform while also underscoring the need to promote development and job growth in Mexico and Central America.
Democratic Assemblyman Guillermo Linares is slated to introduce an Assembly version of the bill shortly.