After Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) used Twitter to criticize a state bill offering "Dreamers" access to state-funded college scholarships and financial aid, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office slammed the tweet as “anti-immigrant fear mongering.”
With the Dream Act, passed Wednesday by the Democratic-led state Legislature, immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children can qualify for financial aid and scholarships that go to other students in New York State.
The bill, which goes to Cuomo for a signature, allocates $27 million out of Cuomo’s $175.2 billion state budget proposal and would cover between 6,000 and 8,000 eligible Dreamers.
Zeldin tweeted Saturday, “NY just passed a new law, giving free college to illegal immigrants. Now, hardworking NYers paying taxes forever, struggling to make ends meet, will shoulder the burden of paying not only for their own kid(s) to attend college but also illegal immigrants. Bad call!"
Cuomo spokeswoman Hazel Crampton-Hays said in a statement to Newsday on Sunday: "Congressman Zeldin's anti-immigrant fear mongering is as baseless as it is bigoted and it goes against our New York values."
She continued, "While Congressman Zeldin tweets dog whistles and does nothing to actually improve college affordability, Governor Cuomo has worked tirelessly to make college affordable for New Yorkers ..." including "calling for the passage of the Dream Act for years so undocumented students who meet eligibility requirements can access the same tuition assistance and scholarships as everyone else, and we look forward to finally making it law this year."
Zeldin said in a statement Sunday, "Governor Cuomo's blatant pandering to the extreme left of the Democratic Party and utter disregard for the rule of law is becoming more and more evident by the day. The guy has gone full Rambo prioritizing his fight for people who break laws over those who follow them."
Zeldin's statement continued, "There are hard working, middle income New York taxpayers who cannot afford to send their children to college, because they do not qualify for tuition assistance. If a change is going to be made to expand tuition assistance to more college students, then expand access to aid for students who are in our country legally, not illegally."
Other Republicans have criticized the legislation, arguing that New York taxpayers shouldn't have to shoulder costs for undocumented immigrants.
The students will qualify for the state's Tuition Assistance Program and other scholarships and grants, including the Excelsior Scholarship. The Excelsior Scholarship provides tuition dollars for income-qualified families at the state's public colleges and universities.
Last week, state Sen. Daphne Jordan (R-Halfmoon) said on the chamber floor that the bill was “a $27 million giveaway to illegal immigrants.”
“The Dream Act is a nightmare and a slap in the face to all families who are struggling to pay for college education,” she said.