Caribbean legislators welcome passage of DREAM Act

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NEW YORK, USA (CMC) — Caribbean legislators have welcomed the New York Legislature’s passage of a bill that for the first time, provides undocumented Caribbean and other immigrant students access to financial aid and scholarships for higher education in the state.

On Wednesday during the New York Senate Majority Conference, the bill passed, Jos Peralta New York State DREAM Act, 40-20 and the New York State Assembly 90-37.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says he will sign it into law.

“Today, I met with Evelyn Peralta and the family of the late Senator Jose Peralta, champion of the Dream Act,” the governor said.

“As a key part of our Justice Agenda, we look forward to finally making it law for all New Yorkers this year, for Senator Peralta and the Dreamers,” he added.

The legislation allows undocumented children, who are already students in New York state, the ability to qualify for state aid for higher education, create a Dream Fund for college scholarship opportunities and remove barriers that prevent undocumented families from college saving programmes.

Allowing undocumented youths to access financial assistance will enable them to earn degrees, access highly skilled employment and support their local economies across New York state.

“Access to higher education is a critical means for economic mobility in New York state, so I cannot understand why we should continue to lock out tens of thousands of children and young adults from the financial resources that they need because of decisions that were made outside of their control,” said Jamaican-born Senator Leroy Comrie, representative for the 14th Senatorial District of Queens, New York.

“Passing the Jos Peralta DREAM Act is not just the right thing to do for our immigrant neighbours; it’s the right kind of investment for the future of our state,” added Comrie, whose district encompasses portions of Jamaica, Cambria Heights, Queens Village, Hollis, St. Albans, Laurelton, Jamaica Estates, Briarwood, Hillcrest and Kew Gardens.

Guyanese-born Senator Roxanne J Persaud, who represents the 19th Senatorial District in Brooklyn, said granting children of immigrants the same access to financial aid available to citizens is “fair and imperative for their chance at higher education.

“I am proud to pass the |Jos Peralta DREAM Act with my colleagues, in memory of my friend whom it was named after,” said Persaud, representative for Southeast Brooklyn, serving the 12 communities of Canarsie, East New York, Brownsville, Mill Basin, Sheepshead Bay, Bergen Beach, Marine Park, Flatlands, Mill Island, Georgetown, Ocean Hill and Starrett City.

Senator Zellnor Myrie, representative for the 20th Senatorial District in Brooklyn, whose grandmother hailed from Jamaica, said: “As the son of immigrant parents, I know that immigrants and their children contribute to our communities, our culture, and our economy.

“They deserve improved access to education, health care, and legal representation, no matter their status,” said Myrie, whose parents were born in Costa Rica. His district includes parts of a range of Brooklyn neighbourhoods: Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Gowanus, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, South Slope, and Sunset Park.

New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, said while the US federal government is shutdown, “as a result of Donald Trump taking immigrant families hostage, New York state is taking decisive action to expand the rights of undocumented immigrants by at last passing the DREAM Act.

“While Donald Trump and Republicans are intent on forcing people into the shadows and out of the country, our state is taking a stand for undocumented New Yorkers,” said Williams, representative for the largely Caribbean 45th Council District in Brooklyn that includes major swaths of Flatbush and East Flatbush. “I commend and thank the legislature for their swift action this term to make the DREAM Act a priority.”

The Jos Peralta New York State DREAM Act, will create a DREAM fund commission and a DREAM fund in order to advance the educational opportunities of the children of immigrants by providing scholarships to college bound students.

The Act will also eliminate potential financial obstacles to obtaining state financial aid and extends the opportunities for undocumented students to attend higher education institutions.

In addition, the Act will eliminate barriers for Caribbean and other immigrants to save for their families’ higher education expenses by allowing such individuals to open a New York State 529 family tuition account under the New York State College Tuition Savings Program and/or be a designated beneficiary on an account if they have a taxpayer identification number.

Senator Kevin Parker, representative for the predominantly Caribbean 21st Senatorial District in Brooklyn, said passage of the DREAM Act has “provided an open door and the keys to higher education for many children of our great state.

“This legislation will allow children of immigrants access to the financial support they need to complete their education and advance their future,” he said. “To the millions of young people who came here as infants and were negatively impacted by the previous college tuition policies, America is their home.

“As such they deserve the basic rights to an education, police protection and medical services as everyone else,” Parker added. “I am so proud of the leadership provided by Majority Leader (Andrea) Stewart-Cousins in making the DREAM Act a reality. Further, it warms my heart that the slegislation has now been renamed The Jose Peralta New York State DREAM Act after my colleague who strongly advocated for passage prior to his death.”

“Today, we made it clear that we will continue to stand up for New Yorkers,” Stewart-Cousins said. “We made college more affordable, we have made it possible for all teachers to teach without undue burdens, and we passed tax relief for middle-class New Yorkers by making the property tax cap permanent.”

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