The Remarks Of Speaker Sheldon Silver

DREAM Act Press Conference

Capitol, Speaker's Conference Room
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 [11:30 A.M.]

{As Delivered}

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Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (at podium) holds a news conference following the Assembly Higher Education Committee's passage of the DREAM ACT. Silver discussed the benefits of the DREAM Act as both an investment in the state and also in young immigrants who want to pursue a college education so they too can achieve the American dream and contribute to the state and nation's greatness. Silver was joined by Assemblymembers Deborah Glick; Philip Ramos; Francisco Moya; William Scarborough; Herman D. Jr., Farrell; Patricia Fahy; David Weprin; Steve Cymbrowitz; and Luis Spulveda and advocates of immigrant organizations.

On January 16th of this year, the Assembly Majority announced the introduction of comprehensive "DREAM Act" legislation intended to give our immigrant students greater access to college aid and to a broad range of state educational opportunity programs.

We are here to announce that this legislation, Assembly Bill 2597, has been reported out of the Higher Education Committee where it received overwhelming, bipartisan support.

Standing here in support of this important legislation are a number of our Majority bill sponsors and colleagues. In a moment, you will be hearing from the lead sponsor of our DREAM Act legislation, Assembly Member Francisco Moya of Queens, and from the Chair of our Standing Committee on Higher Education, Assembly Member Deborah Glick of Manhattan.

We are delighted to have a number of special guests with us this afternoon:

We will be hearing from Katherine shortly.

To refresh your memories, the Assembly's DREAM Act legislation, if enacted into law, would, for the first time, make immigrant students eligible to receive state scholarships, financial aid through "TAP" (the Tuition Assistance Program), and would enable them to participate in programs such as the Education Opportunity Program, and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program.

In addition, our legislation would create the DREAM Fund, an initiative that would raise private funds for the purpose of providing private scholarships for eligible college-bound students who have at least one immigrant parent.

What we are doing with this legislation is keeping America's promise, the promise of freedom, equality and opportunity for all.

For more than three centuries, immigrants have come to this country, millions through New York, seeking nothing more than the freedom to make their own way.

You know their stories, the trials and the tribulations, the striving and the sacrifice and the success that inspire us every day.

The immigrant story is also one of overcoming barriers that were erected to keep them from full equality and opportunity. Many of those barriers were knocked down by men and women who have served in the Assembly and in our state government over the decades.

Now it is 2013.

Are the leaders of this state really going to deny these young men and young women, who know no other homeland, the opportunity to achieve and to give back to our state - the way every immigrant generation has done before them - simply because they are undocumented?

Look, the DREAM Act is not about pitting citizens who were born here against those who were not. It is not a question of taking resources from one group and giving them to another.

It's about equal access to higher education for all of our children.

In-state tuition has been available to New York's immigrant youth since 2002. Why deny these students the financial assistance that other students receive?

There is simply no moral or economic argument to justify it.

If you can look at Katherine Tabares and hear her story, and still be unsure, then I just urge you to support the DREAM Act out of a sense of enlightened self-interest, because we need as many of our young people as possible trained for the modern workplace, which is the foundation of our growing economy.

Washington has been debating the DREAM Act for the better part of twelve years. Who knows when they will act?

The States of California, Texas and New Mexico already offer state financial aid to their immigrant youth. It is time that New York took the lead here in the East.

It is a matter of equality. It is a matter of human dignity. It is a matter of keeping the American promise. It is time for the DREAM Act.