February 14, 2012
City kids lobby Albany lawmakers to pass state Dream Act
Hoping to put a face on the plight of undocumented college students, dozens of immigrant high school kids from the city went to Albany on Tuesday to lobby lawmakers.
The teens from Brooklyn and Queens are pressuring the pols to pass legislation that would help young people without papers get their sheepskin.
"I'm going to tell them that people like me, we want to succeed, we want to go to college," said Katherine Tabares, 16, a senior at International High School.
She left Colombia for Corona, Queens, two years ago and overstayed a tourist visa after her mother decided to remain in the city.
She’s racked up 21 college-level credits and wants to become an environmental engineer — but won’t get state aid for higher education because she doesn’t have a green card.
Sen. Bill Perkins (D-Harlem) and Assemblyman Guillermo Linares (D-Washington Heights) have introduced a bill called the New York State Dream Act that would open the state Tuition Assistance Program to all students, regardless of immigration status.
Another bill, introduced by Assemblyman Francisco Moya, would set up a fundraising commission to provide private scholarships to all children of immigrants.
The measures face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled state Senate.
Linares and Moya met the students when they arrived in the capital Tuesday morning, and there were more than a dozen meetings throughout the day.
"They need to hear it from you," said Moya (D-Corona). "Today, if you really want to make history, now's the time."
Many of the high schoolers said they would be directly affected by the measures.
"I have to hope they're going to pass it," said Antonio Alarcon [member of Make the Road NY], 17, an undocumented Mexican senior who plans to go to Queens College next year.
Last month, his parents returned to Mexico because his little brother was left alone in Veracruz after his grandmother's death. He's staying with his aunt and uncle in Jackson Heights.
"I want to stay here, here's my future," he said. "I have to work and study at the same time but it's going to be really hard."
The non-profit Make the Road organized the lobbying trip with several city high schools. Organizer Natalia Aristizabal called it a "learning experience to fight for your rights."
Mayor Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the Board of Regents back the state Dream Act — proposed after a federal version died in the U.S. Senate.
But critics, including Assemblyman Dan Burling (R-Warsaw), say the bills wrongly reward people who break the law to come into the country.
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