Tonight, an estimated 900 undocumented students will celebrate their graduation from CUNY in a dedicated ceremony.
Monica Sibri, the founder and president of CUNY Dreamers, a student organization for undocumented student rights, sees this as a big step in the right direction. "This is the first time the University is recognizing the fact that there is a difference between a student and a Dreamer," she said. "Many of them are graduating after six or seven years, because of the lack of financial assistance."
This March, the CUNY Dreamers enacted a hunger strike when Governor Cuomo announced that the Dream Act, which would allow undocumented high school students in New York State to apply for financial aid for college, had been dropped from his 2015-16 budget proposal. Despite their efforts, the Dream Act was not included in the final budget.
Since then, "We've taken action into our own hands," Sibri says, winning third-party scholarships through The Dream.US scholarship fund this spring, for example. However, according to Sibri there are currently about 100 undocumented CUNY undergrads who have reported that they may not have the funds to return to school next semester.
Tonight's ceremony is taking place in the Skylight Room in the CUNY Graduate Center, at 365 Fifth Avenue, at 34th Street. Doors open at 5:30, and space is limited, but last-minute RSVPs can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Graduate Center location is significant. "Some of them [the graduates] are hoping to come back to pursue their Masters," Sibri said. "But the Graduate Center might not even be a place they can afford to come back to."