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Legislature to consider extending tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants

The Legislature will consider a bill that would extend state tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants, but immigration advocates will be pushing for more.

The New York Immigration Coalition, along with affiliated groups later today will call for additional protections for immigrants in New York, with driver’s licenses for undocumented residents a key priority.

The group called the pending passage of the Dream Act a victory, but not enough. The bill is being named in honor of the late Sen. Jose Peralta, a lead sponsor of the legislation who died late last year.

The group also wants more funding committed to outreach for the Census as well as a bolstering of legal services.

“New York State must do more to protect and empower immigrant New Yorkers in the wake of unprecedented attacks on immigrants by the Trump administration, by expanding access to driver’s licenses, committing $40 million to Census outreach and education, and increasing funding for legal services statewide,” said Steven Choi, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “Immigrant New Yorkers deserve nothing less than a bold legislative agenda in 2019 to foster their growth and safety.”

Some of the newly elected Democrats in the state Senate agree.

“Although this bill is a good step, my office will not rest until we see to it that undocumented residents are granted full rights under the NY State Constitution,” said Sen. Julia Salazar, a Brooklyn Democrat. “That includes amongst others the right to have a driver’s license, to be protected from being profiled in State institutions, voting rights, and for the right to apply to professional licenses.”

The Democratic Party has shifted on the issue in the decade since the proposal of extending driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants was first made by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer, to disastrous political consequences.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul has changed her view on the issue, as has U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, now a president candidate.

Still, county clerks who run local Motor Vehicle offices are once again expected to oppose the effort.

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