Fed up with the federal government's inaction on behalf of undocumented youth, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has penned an impassioned editorial for the Daily News, calling for New York to lead the way on immigration reform. "It is shameful that Congress can’t even come together to do the bare minimum and pass the DREAM Act, which opens the door to permanent residency through military service and higher education for thousands of immigrant young people whose parents brought them to this country as children," she writes. In December 2010, the DREAM Act was killed at the federal level as senate votes were cast largely along party lines resulting in a 55-41 split. In a change of pace, Gillibrand's appeal is aimed at local constituencies:
Together, these bills would support the extension of the state’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and other scholarships to all students, regardless of immigration status; create a commission to raise private funds for all children of immigrants (both documented and undocumented), and allow undocumented students and their families to open up college savings accounts.
Investing in the dreams of our immigrant youth is not only the moral thing to do. It is a social, academic and economic imperative. The students who will benefit from the DREAM legislation are some of New York’s best and brightest. They are the friends of our children who have been raised and educated in our schools, churches and neighborhoods. They root for the Yankees, fret about the Mets and know the best pizzerias in town.
Citing research conducted by CEOs for Cities, Gillibrand notes that an increase in four-year college-educated residents by just 1 percent would yield an additional $14.3 billion in annual revenue for New York City alone. Presently, just 35 percent of New Yorkers hold a four-year degree.
The "hottest member of the senate" has made a name for herself not only by appearing in Vogue, but by advocating for a number of controversial issues. Gillibrand called for an end to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," championed the popular James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, and recently began the push to lift remaining bans on gay couples adopting children.
Should the bill pass, New York would saddle up alongside California and Illinois as the third state enact such a measure. New York's DREAM bills would provide undocumented youth who arrived in the United States before their 16th birthday and graduated from high school in New York with access to state-funded financial aid, scholarships, health care, a New York State driver's license, and work authorization.