Lawmakers in Albany are using their break to drum up support for non-budget related bills. That includes a push for a New York version of the Dream Act to help undocumented students pay for college. And while this is not as dramatic as any of the immigration reform bills being discussed on the federal level, opponents are still worried about the cost. Zack Fink has the details.
NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. -- Katherine Tavares was born in Colombia and is currently attending her freshman year of college on a scholarship.
Tavares said, "Last year, I applied for a scholarship for activism and I was able to obtain it. However, the opportunities for certain undocumented youth to get scholarships are very small compared to youth who were born in the United States."
Tavares' scholarship dries up at the end of the year. A straight A student, she is hoping the legislature passes the Dream Act so she will be eligible for state grants including the Tuition Assistance Program, or TAP, and the Higher Education Opportunity Program. Both are competitive and merit based, but currently unavailable to illegal immigrant students, even if their parents brought them to this country without any choice.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, "What we are dealing with in this legislation is keeping America's promise. The promise of freedom, equality and opportunity for all."
But critics say public money should be used solely for those who are here legally, since college can be out of reach to even those who have played by the rules.
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis said, "We should not be taking tax payer money and giving it to those who are in this country illegally. A lot of students, both who are American citizens and legal immigrants and are struggling to get through college, many graduate with insurmountable debt."
Assemblyman Francisco Moya is the Assembly's sponsor. He says the cost to taxpayers will be minimal.
"Well, we don’t know the exact number. It can vary because we don't know how many students there are. So it can vary, anywhere from $17 million plus," Moya said.
The Dream Act has actually passed the Assembly before and it cleared committee once again last week, so its passage by the full Assembly once again is likely before the end of the session. The problem could be in the Senate. But with a new power sharing arrangement there between Independent Democrats and Republicans, its chances of passage are probably better than they ever have been before.