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Advocates push for student aid for immigrants

Long Island immigrant advocates went to Albany Tuesday to urge their state senators to approve the Dream Act, which would allow immigrants without proper documents to receive state education aid.

But their chances look bleak even though the measure is moving through the Democratic-led Assembly's committees.

Republican co-Senate leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) has said that tuition and other aid must be privately funded, while Jeff Klein, the Bronx Democratic Senate co-leader, said casino revenue should pay for the aid.

There is no accord on casinos right now and both co-leaders must agree to bring a bill to the floor.

"I think everybody will benefit if we are able to get an education," said Elizabeth Ulcuango, of Patchogue, through a translator. The 40-year-old supports her four children in Ecuador. She wants to bring her children here so they can get an education.

California, Texas and New Mexico already offer immigrants state education aid, according to a study by the New York University Immigrant Rights Law Clinic.

Many immigrants without proper documents graduate from high school every year but don't qualify for financial aid to go to college. Several proposals would allow those students access to state-funded financial aid, permit them to make use of tax-exempt savings accounts and establish a privately funded scholarship fund for their benefit.

Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said the governor favors a federal proposal and is studying the state counterparts. The federal proposal would allow immigrants who came to the United States as children to become eligible for earned citizenship by going to college or serving honorably in the armed forces for at least two years.

Many states, including New York, want to grow jobs by leveraging their universities' research, and a number of economists say businesses favor areas with educated labor forces.

In New York, college graduates earn about $25,000 more a year -- and pay $3,900 more in state and local taxes -- than people whose education ends after high school, the NYU study said.

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