Thompson backs plan to aid immigrant students

New York City Comptroller and mayoral candidate William New York City Comptroller and mayoral candidate William Thompson Jr. address a crowd at the "Stand for Freedom in Iran" rally against Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad near the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan. (Sept. 24, 2009) Photo Credit: AP

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Mayoral candidate Bill Thompson Monday promoted a plan he said would help New York students without documentation while immigration reform is being hashed out nationally.

The Democrat said he wants dedicated funding for city students prevented by their immigration status from qualifying for financial aid, a program he's proposed that he said would help tens of thousands of students, cost less than $20 million and would be financed by bond sales.

"How can we ask our students to wait for their education or their opportunity to contribute to this city?" Thompson said of ongoing congressional debate on immigration reform. He added that such a program "more than pays for itself" because college graduates contribute more taxes.

The former comptroller's news conference in lower Manhattan's Federal Plaza was briefly interrupted when a guard told the group that it couldn't film the federal building and "the message you're sending out is political."

Thompson's aides countered that they were on public property. They were permitted to continue the conference with his podium turned around and the news cameras pointed away from the building.

"Problem fixed in minutes," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who joined Thompson in promoting his Big Apple-Big Dreams plan.

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Several students spoke at the event, including Brooklyn College student Cesar Ventura, 21, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. "It's not about language, it's not about economics," he said of his inability to get aid. "It's very personal."

Also Monday, mayoral contender and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio announced he had received the endorsement of the 25,000-member Professional Staff Congress of the City of New York, which includes CUNY faculty and staff.

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