The American Dream is alive and well in the hearts of many kids living and going to school in New York, and they are not afraid to lobby for the Dream in Albany.
Several dozen high school youth went to Albany Tuesday to confront lawmakers there with their plight as undocumented kids trying to get ahead in America through higher education. The teens, from Queens and Brooklyn, want to get legislation passed that would make it easier for kids without green cards to go to college.
“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.
Taberes left Columbia two years ago and stayed longer than her tourist visa permitted because her mother decided to stay in Corona, Queens. She has already accumulated 21 college credits and is dreaming of becoming an environmental engineer. She is eligible to attend college here, but she is not entitled to any state aid without a green card, unless the Dream Act is passed in Albany.
Seeking Financial Aid
The New York State Dream Act, a bill introduced by Democrats Senator Bill Perkins (Harlem) and Assemblyman Guillermo Linares (Washington Heights) would allow all students, regardless of their immigration status eligible for the state Tuition Assistance Program.
Another bill which was introduced by Assemblyman Francisco Moya (Corona) will set up a commission to fundraise for private scholarships which will be designated for the children of immigrants.
The proposed bills will need to pass through a Republican controlled state Senate, not an easy task. Thus the trip to Albany.
When the kids arrived in the capital on Tuesday they were met by Linares and Moya. Dozens of meetings took place 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.”
Touching Them Personally
Many of the teens said that these bills will directly affect them personally.
Antonio Alarcon is a 17-year old high school senior without a green card who is planning on going to Queens College this coming year. His parents were forced to return to Mexico last month because his younger brother was left in Mexico with his grandmother in Veracruz, but his grandmother died and the boy was left alone. Antonio is living with an aunt and uncle in Jackson Heights.
“I have to hope they’re going to pass it,” said Antonio. “I want to stay here, here’s my future,” he added. “I have to work and study at the same time but it’s going to be really hard.”
The non-profit organization “Make the Road” pulled the trip together with a few city high schools. Natalia Aristizabal, the organizer of the trip said that it is a “learning experience to fight for your rights.”
The Board of Regents, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Mayor Bloomberg all wish to see the state Dream Act pass. The state Dream Act was proposed when similar federal legislation died in the US Senate.
Not everyone believes in the American Dream, however. One critic of the proposals, Assemblyman Dan Burling (Republican from Warsaw) says that the proposed legislation rewards people who have broken the law to live in the US, which is wrong.