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Diverse Voices Call for Expanding Educational Opportunity for DREAMers


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Press Contact: Thanu Yakupitiyage,  Main Phone: 212-627-2227 x235,  E-mail: tyaku@thenyic.org
New York City  (Friday, December 9, 2011)

Diverse Voices Call for Expanding Educational Opportunity for DREAMers

While Washington, DC, Fails to Act, New Yorkers Push for State Legislation

Friday, December 9th, 2011 (New York, NY). On the steps of City Hall this morning, dozens of young people, community leaders, and elected officials gathered to demand greater access to higher education for youth, regardless of status. Currently, undocumented youth who have been raised here have no access to financial aid, either at the federal or state level, making it next to impossible for some of the best and brightest of New York’s young people to go to college.

The press conference preceded a public hearing convened by the New York State Assembly Committee on Higher Education on legislation that would benefit DREAM youth. Community leaders and students will be giving testimony on the importance of expanding access to financial resources to students regardless of immigration status, allowing DREAMers to continue their education and expand their futures.

Yajaira Saavedra, Founder of DREAM Scholars, said, "The New York State DREAM proposed bills will allow undocumented students an opportunity to fulfill their aspirations and ultimately give back to the American society who contributed to their upbringing. By allowing undocumented students an equal opportunity to apply for the tuition assistance program and private funds, the NYS DREAM bills will ultimately enrich our high school and college graduation rates. DREAM Scholars advocates for equity in the education system and proudly supports the NYS DREAM bills."

“If the NYS DREAM Fund and NYS DREAM Act would be accepted it would be easier for me to go to college, give back to the country the opportunity to let me study, and then use my skills to improve my community,” said Katherine Tabares, High School Senior and Youth Leader at Make the Road NY.

“Through continued determination and hard work to overcome untold barriers, thousands of New York State motivated students have achieved academic goals. They have earned the opportunity to attend various universities and pursue their dreams,” said Javier Ramirez Baron, Immigrant family program coordinator at Cabrini Immigrant Services. “However, despite their desire, their ability to give back to their families and the state that educated them is in jeopardy because of their status. Cabrini Immigrant Services, youth and community members with whom we collaborate believe in New York State's longtime tradition of justice, inclusion and opportunity for all. For this reason we urge our representatives at the state level to work together and recognize the struggle faced by these talented young students. We urge to take the moral path for our state and for our economy by making it possible for these students to receive state loans and scholarships.”

Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities NYC said, "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."

"The DREAM students are arguably the most vulnerable youth in our state but they also represent the greatest promise for New York,” said José Calderón, Senior Vice President, Hispanic Federation. “Having overcome great obstacles to achieve educational success, they are the driven overachievers who continue to desire more than anything else the opportunity to fully contribute to our society. They are the future of New York. The way we see it the fundamental question is not why we should pass these DREAM bills but why we wouldn't."

“The New York State Youth Leadership Council expresses its gratitude to the Higher Education and Government Operations committees for holding the hearing on the NY DREAM Act. As the first organization that spearheaded the campaign for the New York DREAM Act, we are glad to see the support that this progressive bill has continued to garner,” said Jacki Cinto, New York State Leadership Council. “We urge all our elected officials to take immediate action, co-sponsor and push for the NY Dream Act. Undocumented youth need tangible and effective relief, such as access to public-funded sources of financial aid and IDs, which will aid them in accomplishing their dreams of higher education. These two basic necessities will allow undocumented youth contribute to the greatness of New York. Our state must take a stand and continue to embrace its immigrant heritage.”

“As an organization that has worked on the DREAM Act for years, the MinKwon Center for Community Action is glad to see New York's elected officials taking the needs of immigrant youth seriously,” said Ju Bum Cha, Education and Communications Director at MinKwon Center for Community Action. We look forward to working with our coalition allies, the Korean community, and our elected officials to find a solution for all of New York's youth - regardless of status – to have the same rights to education and to investing in their future."

"We join with and support all DREAMers. We commend the proposed Assembly bill 8689 and the New York State Dream Act,” said Bertha Lewis, President of The Black Institute. “This is a large step in the right direction, but we must also ensure that the 'Dream Act' includes documented children of immigrants; a select group of children that moved here with their mothers and fathers who were recruited professionals. They are black, invisible and documented."

“I wasn’t supposed to speak today, but came to be moral support for my cousin and closest friend, who is a DREAM child,” said Leila Cassanda Bocanegra, a senior at Rochester Highschool. “Unfortunately she wasn’t able to make it because she can’t get on a plane because she does not have an ID; it’s not safe for her to ride on a train or a bus either. What breaks my heart is that she isn’t going to the school she deserves to be going to, as she is not eligible for any scholarship money to make school affordable. I speak on her behalf because she is unable to.

"We're gratified that New York's political leaders see the urgency of this issue. Just a few weeks ago, the Board of Regents and State Education Commissioner put their weight behind extending state tuition assistance to immigrant youth,” said Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition. “Now the State Assembly is convening this hearing on state-level DREAM legislation. There's consensus among immigrant, faith, business, labor, youth, and educational leaders, as well as among many of New York's public officials, that expanding access to education for all youth, regardless of immigration status, is a crucial investment in their future and, indeed, in ours. New York needn't sit idly by while Washington, DC, fails to act; we can and must do something now."


Mae Lee: 212-274-1891 Chinese Progressive Association (Chinese and English)
Maira Chavez: 347-421-7543 DREAM Scholars (English and Spanish)
Jessica Orozco: 212-233-8955 Hispanic Federation (English and Spanish)
Natalia Aristizabal:917-754-3081 Make the Road New York (English and Spanish)
Ju Bum Cha:917-667-1456 Minkwon Center for Community Action (Korean and English)
Thanu Yakupitiyage: 212-627-2227 x235 The New York Immigration Coalition (English and Spanish)
Vishal Mistry:646-484-8537 New York State Youth Leadership Council (English and Spanish)
Fran Clark 914-364-8925 Professional Staff congress (English)


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