New York State is poised to pass a legislative agenda that focuses on granting illegal immigrants access to financial assistance for public universities, a step that California took a few days ago. John King Jr., the state's education commissioner to the Board of Regents, tells the Times that, "It's about making sure that students are able to fulfill their aspirations after their graduate from high school." New York allows undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition, but the move is part of a larger strategy to lobby Congress to pass a version of the Dream Act, which would give students who completed two years of college or military service a path to citizenship.
Legislation that assists illegal immigrants in accessing state services has been referred to as a "magnet" by critics of immigration reform and indeed the 2012 GOP presidential field. "This amounts to a much broader amnesty than the New York State Board of Regents wants to portray it," a spokesman for the Federation of American Immigration Reform. Ironically, the group called "FAIR" supported Alabama's recently passed immigration law that allows for the wholesale discrimination against Latinos. The law has been denounced by a contingent of the state's clergy.
Proponents for New York's education agenda say that in addition to assisting immigrants with tuition, an ideal bill would also allow them to have driver's licenses, something Eliot Spitzer failed at getting through the legislature in 2007. "These people are going to be citizens of this country some day, and we need to prepare them for a life of independence," Dr. Merryl Tisch, the Board of Regents' Chancellor says.
For an excellent primer on how the Obama administration is moving away from its promises to pass comprehensive immigration reform as it ramps up deportations, see Frontline's documentary Lost In Detention.