New York legislation to help illegal Caribbean nationals stalls

Nelson A King 

NEW YORK, United States, Monday May 27, 2013 – Legislation aimed at helping illegal Caribbean nationals remain in the United States legally seems to have hit a roadblock even as the United States Congress is making progress in overhauling the nation’s immigration laws. 

With less than four weeks before the current session of the New York Legislature comes to an end, the bill that would provide financial assistance to illegal Caribbean and other immigrants has stalled. 

Critics say the New York State Dream Act, which was overwhelmingly approved this week in the Democrat-dominated Assembly, stands a slim chance of passage in the Senate, where Republicans share control in a coalition with breakaway Democrats.

“I do not support expanding eligibility for college scholarships to undocumented immigrants at the expense of immigrants who are lawfully in our country,” said Long Island, New York Senator Lee M Zeldin. 

Assemblyman David DiPietro, a Republican from western New York, called the State Dream Act “preposterous”.

“Albany should not be doling out entitlement programmes to lawbreakers, including those willfully violating federal laws. The Dream Act is just another nightmare for New York State taxpayers,” he said.

The Dream Act would permit undocumented Caribbean and other students who meet certain conditions to receive financial aid through state programs. 

It would also establish a private scholarship programme for children of immigrants and allow unauthorized immigrants and their families to open tuition savings accounts. 

The measure, a version of which was introduced in 2011, gets its name from a prior US federal bill that would have provided a path to citizenship for illegal Caribbean and other immigrants. 

While New York is among a dozen states that permit undocumented immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition rates, only three – California, New Mexico and Texas – allow them to receive government tuition aid.

New York State comptroller, Thomas P DiNapoli, said the Dream Act would be an “economic boom” for the state, because it would aid illegal Caribbean and other immigrants in enhancing their educational opportunities and better prepare them for the work place.

DiNapoli said the measure would add less than US$20 million in costs – less than two percent – to the Tuition Assistance Programme, the state’s largest financial aid programme. 

“A better-educated work force will benefit New York’s economy,” he said in a statement. 

New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a candidate for Mayor, said with the immigration debate in full swing nationwide, “there is no better time than now to pass the Dream Act. 

“New York has so many immigrant students who are willing, capable and ready to pursue their goals of higher education, and we should not deny them this opportunity. 

“Passage of this bill is an investment in our economic future, which will generate invaluable returns for our state,” he added. 

Earlier this week, the US Senate Judiciary Committee approved a broad overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws. 

The bipartisan vote sent the country’s most significant immigration policy changes in decades to the full Senate for further deliberation. Debate is anticipated to commence there next month. 

The 13-5 vote approved the measure authored by four Democrats and four Republicans, and includes an agreement between Republicans and Democrats on visas for high-skilled Caribbean and other foreign workers.(CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)