I have lived in New York all of my life and have dedicated my career to public service, and there are three things I know to be absolutely certain.
One, that the faith, the courage, the work ethic and the tireless labor of immigrant men and women is what transformed a Dutch colony into the Empire State, and is what energizes and re-energizes our state generation by generation.
Two, that each and every one of us is a descendant of immigrants.
Three, that the State of New York cannot afford to waste bright, creative, young minds … not a single one.
We all know that there are young men and women in our state who were brought to New York as children and who know no other homeland. Having become assimilated into our culture, they are as American in character as any young person living in this country today. They share the same hopes, the same dreams, the same desire to spread their wings and fly as any high-school or college-aged student you may know.
We educate these children in our elementary and secondary schools, but when it comes time for these young adults to go to college, the State of New York shuts the door on those who are not affluent enough to afford college tuition. We deny these undocumented young students the same assistance we provide to their native-born classmates.
How do we, a state built by immigrants, justify turning our backs on the next generation?
It's shameful and it's wrong.
We in the Assembly Majority have made it clear that enactment of the DREAM Act is among our top priorities for this legislative session.
And this is why we are here:
To announce that we will take up - and we will pass - our DREAM Act legislation this afternoon.
Furthermore, our budget proposal will include the DREAM Act and funding for it - as it did last year - to make scholarships, tuition assistance, and programs such as the Education Opportunity Program available to our bright, young, immigrant students in time for the Fall semester.
In a moment, you will be hearing from the champion and lead sponsor of our DREAM Act legislation, Assembly Member Francisco Moya of Queens, who has travelled our state advocating for our immigrant students.
You will also hear from another key DREAM Act champion, the distinguished Chair of our Committee on Higher Education, Assembly Member Deborah Glick.
We are honored to be joined by Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO. He will be speaking on our legislation as well.
And, we are delighted to have a young "DREAMer" here to tell his story. He is Kevin Vayas, a 16-year-old Junior at International High School at LaGuardia Community College.
If you look at the crowd you will see that there are a number of Majority bill sponsors and supporters, members of the Assembly, here to stand up for the DREAM Act.
We have a number of special guests as well, including Natalia Salgado, New York Deputy Political Director of SEIU 32BJ, and representatives of Make the Road New York.
On May 21st of 2013, we passed the DREAM Act and sent it to the Senate.
It was never brought to the floor for a vote, which is startling when you consider that our businesses are clamoring for highly skilled workers, especially companies in New York City and the metropolitan region where the vast majority of our undocumented students reside.
I will say this again. This is not a state that can afford to waste bright, young minds.
The DREAM Act will open the doors to higher education and self-fulfillment for all of our children, and that is our moral obligation.
The DREAM Act, will help us lower unemployment and strengthen our workforce, and that is our economic imperative.
Kevin Vayas and all DREAMers deserve a government that values their contributions and their potential and so, helps them enter the doors to opportunity and advancement.
What they need from the Legislature is action, not intransigence.
So, once again, we are calling upon our colleagues in the Senate to pass the DREAM Act in this legislative session. The Governor has said if you pass it, he will sign it into law.
Let's get it passed. Let's get it signed. Let's give all of our college-bound students a better future, the future they deserve.