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New York State Education Officials Vote to Open Up Educational Opportunities for Students Regardless of Status

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Contact: Thanu Yakupitiyage,  Main Phone: 212-627-2227 x235,  E-mail: tyaku@thenyic.org
New York City  (Tuesday, November 15, 2011)

New York State Education Officials Vote to Open Up Educational Opportunities for Students Regardless of Status

Immigrant Youth and Faith, Community, Labor and Civic Leaders Join Commissioner King and Chancellor Tisch to announce Regents Vote on Tuition Assistance for DREAMers

Undocumented immigrant youth, faith, labor, and civic leaders joined Merryl H. Tisch, Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, and State Education Department Commissioner John B. King, Jr., today in front of the New York Public Library in Manhattan to announce yesterday’s vote by the Regents to support the extension of the state's Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) to all students, regardless of immigration status. This change would make it possible for young New Yorkers who were raised in this country without status to attend college and fulfill their potential. Today's vote comes on the heels of the Regents' resolution last month in support of the federal DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for young people who meet eligibility requirements such as attending college and performing military service.

[Photo Above] Chancellor Tisch, Commissioner King, and DREAM Student
(Photo Credit: G.Pazmino/ManhattanTimes/BronxFreePress)

"There are thousands of students in New York who have been condemned to a life of poverty simply because they were brought to the United States as children," New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said. "Their immigration status is determined solely by the status of their parents, and they’re being denied opportunities that the rest of New York takes for granted. It makes no sense. It’s an on-going tragedy that not only hurts these students, it hurts our society. The Board of Regents want to make sure they have the opportunity to go to college. The Education Equity for DREAMers Act will help make that happen."

"Right now, no matter how long they’ve lived here or how young they were when their parents brought them here, these students are far too often forced into the shadows of poverty and desperate existence," New York State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. said. "The Education Equity for DREAMers Act opens up a pathway out of the shadows. New York was built in no small part by the energy and vitality of immigrants. Giving these students a chance to go to college will not only help them, it will help our economy grow."

“The City University of New York has a longstanding tradition of service to New York’s immigrants and to the children of immigrants, enabling them access to a high-quality higher education,” said Matthew Goldstein, Chancellor of the City University of New York (CUNY). “Students who graduate from a New York State high school should be eligible to receive government-supported financial assistance. If they have earned their high school degrees in New York, and under state law are eligible to attend public colleges, they ought to have access to the support they need to advance their education–especially at a time when New York needs a skilled workforce.”

“The New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC), wants to extend its gratitude and express its great pleasure to the New York State Board of Regents for introducing a tuition bill for undocumented students and making a powerful statement on equal access to education for all students in New York, regardless of their immigration status,” said Jaqueline Cinto, a student and member of the NYSYLC. “In a time when the federal government has failed to act and states are implementing divergent policies affecting immigrants, New York must lead and take a stand. California has established that undocumented youth deserve equal opportunity by passing the California Dream Act while states like Georgia and Alabama are undermining the right to education by barring undocumented children from school. "

[PHOTO ABOVE] DREAM Youth stand on steps of New York City's Public Library this morning in support of the Regent's vote to expand tuition assistance to students regardless of status

“New York State is, appropriately, at the forefront of advocacy for a more enlightened national immigration policy, which includes helping resident students, regardless of their status, gain the education that will allow them to contribute to our economy,” stated Kathryn Wylde, President & CEO, Partnership for New York City.

“New York is a City built by immigrants and it continues to thrive today because of new waves of immigration. For most of those immigrants, college means CUNY,” said Barbara Bowen, President of the Professional Staff Congress, the union that represents more than 25,000 faculty and staff at the City University of New York (CUNY) and the CUNY Research Foundation. “Every student deserves an opportunity to attend college and every student with financial need should get TAP, regardless of their documentation status.”

“In our daily work, New York City public school educators teach thousands of students who are the children of undocumented immigrants,” said Michael Mulgrew, President, United Federation of Teachers. “We know them to be hard-working and diligent young people, eager to pursue post-secondary education in their quest to improve their own lives and to contribute to American society. Yet unlike most of their fellow students, they are denied access to publicly provided financial assistance that could make their dreams of a college education into a reality. The United Federation of Teachers and our national union, the American Federation of Teachers, supports the federal DREAM Act legislation that would remedy this problem by providing access to federally provided funds. The UFT supports the DREAM Act before the New York State Legislature that would provide access to financial assistance provided by New York State.

The New York State Catholic Conference, which represents the Catholic Bishops of New York State in public policy matters, said, “The New York State Catholic Conference applauds the New York State Board of Regents and the State Education Department, which today proposed state legislation similar to the federal DREAM Act. While the DREAM Act would extend access to federal higher education grants, the state bill would expand access to the New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) as well as scholarships that are available to SUNY and CUNY students, without regard to immigration status. It would also provide a mechanism allowing students who are currently excluded from participation in the 529 College Savings Accounts to open and benefit from such accounts. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities USA, the New State Catholic Conference and the New State Council of Catholic Charities Directors have all voiced support for the federal Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act (H.R. 1842 / S. 952). The Catholic Conference likewise commends the Board of Regents and State Education Department for advancing this initiative in New York State. New York State has long been a leader in programs for English learners and college readiness programs for immigrant students. The action recommended to the New York State Legislature would open doors to higher education to many students who are currently barred from these pursuits due to a lack of access to financial aid. The achievement of a higher education degree will allow these students to realize their potential and allow them to make a greater contribution to New York State.”

“Congratulations to the Board of Regents for moving NYS one step closer to affording young immigrants greater opportunities for higher education,” applauded Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, the Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York. “Providing opportunities to young people brought here by no fault or action of their own, is one specific step NY can take to ensure newcomers to our state are well prepared for the future. NYS Dreamers have talents that we must help develop – for they will be the future talents of this country, the only one they know and call home. As we continue to work together for comprehensive immigration reform, there are significant specific administrative and legislative initiatives that can be tackled by federal, state and local governments. We need to work together to achieve these.”

Francisco Curiel, a first year college student and youth leader and board member of Make the Road New York, the largest participatory immigrant organization in New York with 10,000 members in Bushwick, Brooklyn; Jackson Heights, Queens; Port Richmond, Staten Island; and Brentwood, Long Island, said, "For undocumented students like me, who have been working for years to advance equity in educational opportunity for other undocumented students, the support of Chancellor Tisch in this fight is incredibly meaningful. We look forward to moving forward together in this fight."

Daniel, a student at Flushing International High School, said, “As a student and an immigrant, I can understand how other immigrants feel about not being a citizen and having to go back to your country after graduating from high school. If the Dream Act would pass I would feel really happy and relieved because I could stay and study in the United States. Everyone should have the opportunity to go to college and fulfill their American dream. As of today, America has been deporting a great amount of immigrant youth who are smart and hard-working people. This nation is losing all these amazing people whose only intention is to be productive in our society. We need them to contribute to this nation to make it a better place for all people. If we kept all of our undocumented students it’s a way of investing in America’s future.

[Photo Above] Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director of the NYIC with Commission King and youth leaders

Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, an umbrella organization for approximately 200 groups that work with immigrants across New York State, said, "I am inspired to see the NYS Board of Regents and state education department exerting their leadership in the DREAM debate. In the face of Washington DC's inaction, the Regents’ vote yesterday sends a powerful message that New York State will do everything in its power to remove barriers to college education. We look forward to working with the Regents, State Ed, the Governor and legislature to make it happen."

Yajaira Saavedra, a student and founder of DREAM Scholars, said, “The Regents decision to offer an equal opportunity towards tuition assistance for undocumented students will contribute to a higher graduation rate in both high school and college levels. For this reason Dream Scholars, an activist group founded by undocumented students, is grateful and proud to be part of the New York educational system.”

“We applaud the Board of Regents on taking an important stand to help New York’s young immigrants achieve their dreams regardless of their status,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action. “We look forward to working closely with the Regents and our coalition of allies to move New York State’s elected officials to offer all immigrant youth a full opportunity to attend college.”

"NYSUT is a strong supporter of the Dream Act. We know that higher education makes a difference in the lives of students and their communities," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "We commend the Regents for their support of this legislation, which will help create new paths to success for immigrant students and make 'college to career' more attainable for students who now are generally in the shadows."

"As people of faith who are required to pursue justice, act with compassion, and welcome the stranger," said Dr. Diane Steinman, Director of the NYS Interfaith Network for Immigration Reform, "we applaud the Board of Regents for proposing a change to NYS law that would enable young undocumented immigrants to afford to attend college, so they can follow their dreams and contribute to a brighter future for our state and nation."

State legislation addressing the Board of Regents’ proposals is expected to be introduced into the Assembly and Senate in coming weeks.

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