Advocates Hope To Revive DREAM Act On State Level
While the DREAM Act was voted down in Congress, some lawmakers are hoping to revive the bill on the state level that would make college life easier for undocumented immigrant students. NY1's Mara Montalbano filed the following report.
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Daniella Alulema of the New York State Youth Leadership Council has a degree in accounting, but the Ecuadoran native says she can't put her education into action because of her immigration status. She says she was looking forward to seeing Congress pass the DREAM Act, which would give undocumented youth education opportunities while on a conditional path to citizenship.
Alulema says she was disappointed to see it defeated in the Senate.
"We need to come out of the shadows. We need to be able to live like dignified human beings who have dreams, who have values, and who want to contribute to their society," Alulema said.
She stood with others in her situation and local lawmakers in Harlem Saturday to support a state version of the federal bill.
State Senator Bill Perkins introduced the New York State Dream Act which would help undocumented youth get access to state resources like financial aid, a driver's license, and health insurance.
"We're stuck right now and I'm 30. I haven't been able to finish my career. I would like to be a counselor one day. I want to be the counselor that pushes young people to follow their dreams," said Jose Luis Zacatecos of the New York State Youth Leadership Council.
While the state bill doesn't help put immigrants on the road to citizenship, it would allow them educational and employment opportunities in the state.
"This is yet another step to fulfill the dream of millions of undocumented immigrants who just want to get a good college education and pay their taxes," said State Senator Adriano Espaillat.
Local lawmakers say they do expect to face some challenges, but they say they are confident the bill will be passed.
"The beauty of it is that, like the civil rights movement, it is the fire and the energy and the vision of our young people that have inspired us to take on this piece of legislation," said Perkins. "As controversial as it may be, it nevertheless is a piece of legislation that would make a big big difference."
Supporters of the state bill say they hope it will encourage other states to adopt similar legislation to open up more opportunities for young people, even if it isn't on the federal level.