New York lawmakers voted Wednesday to extend state financial aid to illegal immigrants, a key liberal priority that Republicans had kept off the agenda for years until Democrats won control of the state Senate last fall.
The so-called Dream Act will extend to illegals the same access to state loans and grants as American citizens. To be eligible, a person must have a New York high school diploma or the equivalent or meet the requirements for in-state tuition. It’s expected to cost $27 million annually. A new state commission and state fund would be created to identify private sources of funding for scholarships.
“The dreamers are here. They are New Yorkers,” said Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa, a Manhattan Democrat who sponsored the bill. “To the dreamers, I say this: Today we do this for you. The door to higher education is open to all.”
Republicans in both the Senate and Assembly argued the bill was unfair to taxpayers and actual immigrants who came legally.
“It sends the wrong message to the millions who have worked their way through college and are still dealing with crippling student loan debt,” said Sen. Fred Akshar (R-Broome County), adding that it would “roll out the red carpet for illegals.”
“I voted in favor of the thousands of families across my community stretching dollars and struggling to save to provide their own children with the opportunity for a college education,” Akshar said.
“I voted in favor of the thousands of individuals suffocating in student loan debt while in search of opportunity and the American Dream. I voted against pushing those families and students aside in favor of providing free college tuition to undocumented and illegal immigrants.”