About two dozen advocates gathered Thursday afternoon outside the office of New York Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan in Smithtown to call for his support of state-funded tuition aid for young immigrants in the country illegally.

The crowd included two Catholic priests, several nuns and a Unitarian Universalist minister, who said their faiths propel them to advocate for young people who see their hopes of going to college fade every year.

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Many immigrants brought to the United States illegally by their parents struggle to pay for college because they don't qualify for state aid, despite graduating from New York high schools. A measure granting them access to income-based assistance has stalled in the New York Legislature year after year.

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"We pray that our legislators may find the wisdom and courage to enact new policies," said the Rev. Bill Brisotti, pastor of the Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Roman Catholic Church in Wyandanch. "There is no clearer mandate in the Bible, no rule repeated more times, than God's call to treat those who live in our midst, who cannot yet be fully citizens of this land, to treat them exactly as ourselves."

Sister Rosalie Carven, social justice coordinator at the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood, delivered 125 petitions to a staffer inside Flanagan's district office, saying "the time is now" to vote on the measure, because "while nothing has happened" on the bill, "these children have been locked out of opportunity."

Flanagan's office did not respond to a request for comment on the Dream Act.