NY Dream Act passes Assembly, heads to Senate

Levi Jones Could Be Available

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York’s Assembly passed a bill Tuesday that would open state tuition assistance programs to students in the country illegally, and now the measure moves to an uncertain future in the Senate.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said $27 million will be included for the Dream Act in the Assembly’s budget proposal and he’s asking the Senate to pass the bill this session. The bill also passed the Assembly last year but died in the Senate.

Opponents argue that using taxpayer money to fund tuition assistance for students in the country illegally takes away both opportunity and funds from students who live here legally.

A key in the Senate will be co-sponsor Sen. Jeff Klein, co-president of the chamber and member of the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of four breakaway Democrats that controls the Senate with the Republicans. His group supports the measure and has been working for passage.

Klein hopes Democrats unite behind the legislation, said a spokesman, Jason Elan.

The bill has 27 Democratic sponsors in the Senate. That’s five votes short of the majority needed for passage.

Democratic senators Ted O’Brien, Tim Kennedy, Joe Adabbo and Bill Perkins are the only remaining Democrats who haven’t signed onto the bill. Perkins was the lead sponsor for the Dream Act in 2011.

Although the bill does not have the support of the entire Democratic conference, Mario Cilento of the state’s AFL-CIO union said there is still time to get all of the members on board.

Proponents of the bill are looking for support from Republicans, particularly those who represent areas with immigrant heavy populations.

“This is not a state that can afford to waste bright young minds,” Silver said at a news conference prior to the vote.

Following the passage of the Assembly bill, 82 to 46, Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins issued a statement saying that the Democratic conference provides a “lion’s share” of the votes needed, but the Senate majority coalition has “stymied progress on this, and so many other, important issues.”

Klein shares power with Republican Sen. Dean Skelos, and both can stop a bill from reaching the floor. Democrats now fear Skelos will block the bill from a vote, killing any chance of passage.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that the measure would curb the number of high school students who drop out of college or don’t attend for financial reasons. He said the lack of college education results in the loss of a “better-educated and higher-earning taxpayers for the city and state.”

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that if the bill passes the Senate, he would sign it into law.

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