By Tony Best
Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News
New York State has thousands of disappointed immigrant families, especially young people with dreams of getting a college education that would put them on track to a much better life than their parents currently enjoy.
And, they are blaming Republicans for what is being seen as a debacle in the state legislature. But, the Republicans aren’t the only ones being criticized. Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is being chided for his “aloofness” when it came to the young New Yorkers who happen to be undocumented immigrants from Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Poland, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Barbados, St. Lucia, Mexico, Honduras, Cuba, Poland, Italy, Russia, Ukraine, Nicaragua, Ghana, Nigeria and other parts of the world.
By a vote of 30-29, the New York State Senate recently killed the Dream Act which, if approved, would have given undocumented immigrants access to financial aid so they could complete their tertiary education at any of more than 50 colleges in the state and city university systems. As a result elected officials at the state, federal and local government levels plus voters they represent have all condemned the vote. It was a straight partisan vote with all of the Republicans banding together to defeat it and two Democrats joining the majority.
“Senate Republican failed our young people,” complained State Senator Kevin Parker, a Democrat of Brooklyn who voted for the measure but watched in anguish as it two votes short to gain acceptance. “Not a single member of the Republican conference voted yes. Not a single member of the Republican conference votes ‘yes’ for opportunity or yes for equality.”
Instead, Parker charged, the Republicans “stood up and implied that the Statue of Liberty no longer stood for an open door,” was the way he put it. “They stood up and argued that our great state of New York has limitation on who should succeed.”
For U.S. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, who represents New York’s Ninth District in the House of Representatives in Washington and who wanted New York to join the list of states that offered undocumented immigrants tuition assistance as they pursued higher education is a deeply disappointed lawmaker. She had urged the legislature in Albany to approve the Dream Act and had expressed the hope that the Senate would have followed the example set by the Assembly and approved the bill by a clear majority.
“The dreamers deserved to be able to complete their education like the rest of New York,” said Clarke who represents thousands of parents and ‘dreamers’ on Capitol Hill. “The vote in the State Senate is a major disappointment.”
Congressman Charles Rangel, who has been representing Harlem in the House for more than 40 years, didn’t hide his disappointment.
“I am disappointed once again that the New York State Senate once again failed to pass the Dream Act,” he said in a statement. “The fate of many of my constituents in Manhattan and the Bronx depends on the enactment of this bill. Our current immigration system denies some of the best and the brightest students in the nation the chance to help America maintain its greatness. Many of them have arrived here illegally by their parents but they salute the Stars and Stripes and America as the only home they know. They deserve the same opportunity to contribute to our nation as Americans.”
Interestingly, two Democrats, State Senator Ted O’Brien of Rochester and Senator Simca Felder of Brooklyn joined the Republicans in voting down the measure.
A key sponsor of the Dream Act was Jose’ Peralta of Queens who reacted to the vote with anguish, saying “it continues to be a nightmare for the ‘Dreamers.’”
The most vociferous response came from Francesco Moya, who sponsored the measure in the lower chamber. He described the Senate vote as a “gutless move” because the bill was brought to the floor for a vote without an assurance of the votes to pass it.
That remark was probably aimed at Senate co-leader Jeffrey Klein, leader of a dissident group of Democrats who have joined Republicans in a leadership pact to control the chamber. Klein said he had fulfilled his promise to bring the Bill to the floor but others insisted he took action without the necessary support to get it through the chamber.
But, Cuomo is not being left unscathed.
He was criticized for not showing sufficient interest in the plight of the Dreamers in the first place.
If he had backed the measure he would have included it in his budget to the legislature, they said of the Governor who, by the way, is up for re-election in November.
“There is still a possibility the governor can put it in his executive budget, as I have already urged him to do,” said State senator Parker.