If there’s one thing more heartbreaking to parents and educators than children who have dropped out of school, or turned to drugs and crime, it’s this: students who are bright, hardworking and passionate about their education, but because of their immigration status, are ineligible to receive financial aid for college.
There are nearly 4,000 New Yorkers that graduate high school each year that fit this description, and under present law they are being cheated out of their right to an education. These are young Americans that were brought here at age five, three, or even just months after their birth. Our country may have denied them a path to citizenship, but these young people are the living embodiment of our country’s values.
That’s why it’s critical we pass the New York State DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors), and give these students the chance to pursue a college education, begin an exciting career, and make their parents proud.
After all, there’s a reason immigrants from all over the world give up so much to move here and raise their children in our country.
The United States has always been a nation of immigrants, and their hard work has made our country great. But in recent years, our country has lost sight of its true values, and has too often shamefully exploited honest, driven immigrants as political scapegoats.
We all know how college costs have exploded in recent years, and it’s virtually impossible for immigrant families to afford the tuition, textbooks, housing and other costs of higher education.
The DREAM Act would begin to correct our broken immigration laws and restore this country’s true ideals by making all New Yorkers who meet key requirements, including graduating high school or receiving a GED eligible for the state’s Tuition Assistance Program, which offers low-interest loans and scholarships to our youth.
It would also establish private scholarships from the public and private sector, through what has been called the DREAM Fund, to offer additional aid. After all, U.S. companies are desperate for skilled workers in science, technology, engineering and math and shouldn’t have recruit foreign employees when we have ambitious young people desperate to learn right here in New York.
While we had hoped the DREAM Act would be included in this year’s state budget, the fight to achieve basic fairness for our kids is not yet over. With Washington gridlock threatening federal immigration reform, it’s crucial that our state lead the nation in supporting our most promising students, regardless of their immigration status.
Through their diligent advocacy and courage in speaking out, these young DREAMers have already proven their intelligence, heart and patriotism. Let’s work together to bring them out of the shadows and send them to college. Despite the setback in this year’s budget, now’s not the time to stop DREAMing.