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Senate passes legislation granting tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants

A bill that would extend state tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants was approved for the first time in the state Senate on Wednesday, a measure that will likely become law after years of Republican opposition.

The bill is known as the Dram Act, and it’s been a political hot potato. During the most-recent election cycle – it was used as a wedge issue for Republican candidates.

Since Democrats gained majorities in both chambers – and Gov. Andrew Cuomo was behind the measure – it cleared a major hurdle. It’s now one step closer to becoming law.

“Every year thousands of undocumented students graduate from high schools, but no matter how hard they try, college is unattainable,” said Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa.

The bill was renamed in honor of Sen. Jose Peralta, a Queens Democrat who died last year. His family was at the Capitol to watch the bill pass.

“It is a dream for us to crown the legacy of Sen. Peralta in the presence of his wife and his family,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

There are also calls for lawmakers to do more for immigrants. Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz is what’s known as a dreamer herself. S

“It’s going to take another five, ten, twenty years to undo the damage that Washington is causing our families,” Cruz said. “Let’s not forget that yes, we do need driver’s licenses, but we also need health care for all. Our immigrant communities are dying because they cannot go to a doctor.”

Republicans like Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis opposed the measure, calling it unfair to legal residents.

Senator Tom O’Mara (R-Big Flats) voted against the proposal.

“We have law-abiding, hard-working families across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions struggling to make ends meet, paying outrageously high state and local taxes, and going into huge amounts of debt trying to afford college for their children. It’s not right to ignore the needs and the hopes of these families while we turn around and deliver hard-earned taxpayer dollars to provide free college tuition for illegal immigrant families,” said O’Mara after the vote.

The implementation of the DREAM Act, which is expected to be approved by the Assembly and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, is estimated to cost the state approximately $27 million.