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Long Island

NY Dream Act backers want bill included in state budget

Victoria Saza, a member of Jobs with Justice,

Victoria Saza, a member of Jobs with Justice, speaks as the Long Island DREAM Coalition joined the statewide effort of advocates, unions and community organizations to call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to include the NY DREAM Act in the state budget held at Farmingdale State College, Saturday, March 22, 2014. Credit: Steve Pfost

Nearly a dozen protesters called on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Saturday to include the NY Dream Act -- a bill that would grant undocumented immigrants access to financial assistance at state universities -- in the state budget.

Members of the Long Island DREAM Coalition held signs reading "Gov. Cuomo: Were You Allowed the Dream?" outside the Campus Center at Farmingdale State College, where Cuomo had been expected to hold an event discussing property tax reform.

Cuomo canceled the event, officials said, to focus on budget negotiations in Albany. Lawmakers have until March 31 to adopt a new state budget.

Cuomo has said he supports the Dream Act but has not said whether he would push for the measure to be included in the budget. A Cuomo spokesman did not respond to a request for comment about the protest.

The Republican-controlled State Senate failed to approve the Dream Act as separate legislation last week, two votes short of the 32 needed. Republicans cited the cost of the bill, which included $25 million in tuition assistance and up to $5,000 per year for students attending four-year schools.

Victoria Daza, an organizer with Long Island Jobs for Justice, said the best way to ensure passage of the Dream Act is to put it in the budget.

Nelson Melgar, 23, a junior at Hunter College in Manhattan who moved from Honduras to Glen Cove a decade ago, said he is barred from receiving state tuition assistance. Melgar took last semester off to work and raise the money needed to attend classes this spring.

"This country has given so much to me, and I want to contribute back to it," he said. "But, to live here like a decent human being, I need this assistance. Help me and I will give back."

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