NYS DREAM Act proponents hold rally at NCC

At a rally at Nassau Community College in Garden City, supporters of the legislation, which would give undocumented New York college students access to financial aid, speak out. Videojournalist: Chris Ware (Feb. 7, 2013)

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New York shouldn't wait for Congress to pass reforms to help young undocumented immigrants who go to college, said activists and students who rallied Thursday at Nassau Community College.

About 20 people gathered outside the Garden City campus' student union, carrying signs urging Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the legislature to "stand on the side of students" and pass the New York State DREAM Act.

The proposed measure "is a very large piece of the entire conversation around immigration," said Anita Halasz, organizer of Long Island Jobs with Justice, a workers' rights advocacy group. "It is an excellent complement to national immigration reform."

The law would provide financial relief to undocumented New York students while they await national immigration reform, advocates said. The measure has been introduced in the Assembly and Senate, combining bills for state-funded aid and a privately funded scholarship fund.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) called for passage this week, while Republicans signaled limited support. State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), a Senate co-leader, said the GOP could back aid "funded with private money," said his spokesman, Scott Reif.

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"Young people, who for all practical purposes have been raised in the United States as Americans and know no other country, should not be marginalized because of their unwitting immigration status," said Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood), a co-sponsor.

The aim is to help students like Ludmila Molina, 21, a Suffolk County Community College psychology major, who attended the rally. She works with her father in construction to pay her tuition.

"Most of the time my dream ends up being postponed . . . because I end up having to go to school part-time," she said.

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