After months of pushing and rallying, the Dream Act will remain just that, a dream.
The legislation — which would allow undocumented immigrant students to receive aid through the Tuition Assistance Program — was rejected by the state Senate on Monday. It lost by two votes, 31-29.
“We’re definitely disappointed but I have confidence that perseverance prevails,” state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said. “The fact that it failed by only two votes shows that almost a majority of the senators are on board and when we get another chance to vote on this again, hopefully we can convince a handful to change their minds.”
Peralta has worked on getting the Dream Act passed for much of his term. The majority whip has often debunked what he calls “misconceptions” on immigration and what the legislation would do.
“There are definitely a lot of misconceptions out there and it’s interesting because I laid out answers to many of the Republicans’ concerns and they still stood up and raised those same concerns after the fact,” he said.
Peralta and Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) — who sponsors the sister bill — said many lawmakers and members of the public think the Dream Act will block citizens from obtaining financial aid.
“That is simply not true,” Moya said. “If you meet the qualifications, meaning you meet the financial threshold and the academic threshold, you will receive aid. The Tuition Assistance Program is not a handout.”
The Dream Act would even add an additional $25 million into the pot.
“Not one person would be harmed by an immigrant trying to get funds,” Peralta said. “There is no cap on the TAP tuition system. If we allocate $100 million one year but $101 million is asked of the state, we are mandated to find the extra $1 million dollars.”
Peralta, Moya and the other lawmakers who stand by the Dream Act are now looking to Gov. Cuomo, who publicly stated that this issue is a top priority for him.
Both Peralta and Moya seemed confident that Cuomo would include the legislation in his budget, thus forcing it back on the floor for a vote but the governor has not publicly commented since the vote.
“We can’t control what he does,” Peralta said. “Governor Cuomo has stated that it is a priority and hopefully he will stand by his word but if not, the best way to have progressive legislation is to have a Democratic-controlled Senate. So when issues like this come up, they’ll be voted through.”
While this is state legislation, Peralta said the overall responsibility for immigration reform is a federal issue.
“This is the responsibility of the federal government,” Peralta said. “They have completely failed on immigration reform. They say it’s a priority and then it fizzles out. What we’re doing in this state is trying to take matters into our own hands and give everyone a fair shot at attending college.”
For now, Peralta said he will be reaching out to Cuomo and targeting some of the senators who were on the fence. He would like to persuade them to stand with the bill should Cuomo bring the Dream Act back to the floor.