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New York lawmakers just passed their own 'DREAM Act'

Posted: 3:35 PM, Jan 23, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-23 18:35:50-05

Supporters erupted in applause and tears Wednesday as New York lawmakers passed their own version of the DREAM Act.

The measure shares the same name -- but is different from -- the DREAM Act that's failed to pass in Washington for years .

Unlike the proposed federal measure, which would give conditional green cards to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, New York's version is more narrowly focused on another battleground in the immigration debate: college tuition.

The Jose Peralta New York State DREAM Act :

• Makes state tuition assistance programs available to undocumented immigrants who attended high school in New York for at least two years and graduated or obtained an equivalency diploma.

• Creates a "DREAM Fund" -- funded by private contributions -- to give scholarships to the children of immigrants.

The measure passed the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly on Wednesday. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign it into law .

Immigrant rights advocates praised the measure as a sign of successful organizing efforts at the state level . Its passage comes as so-called Dreamers , undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, find themselves in limbo during a political stalemate in Washington .

New York state lawmakers who voted to pass the measure said it's particularly important at a time when federal authorities have increasingly targeted immigrant communities.

"We must do everything we can at the state level to make it easier for immigrants, regardless of their status, to get an education that will empower them to better contribute to our communities across New York state," state Democratic Sen. Robert Jackson said.

Other lawmakers said they couldn't support the bill.

Sen. James Tedisco, a Republican, said his constituents were against it.

"They can't understand why this bill is passing for individuals who have broken the law," he said.

College tuition payments have been a major battleground for years in the immigration debate.

Lawmakers in 16 states, including New York, have enacted laws allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures .

Six states -- Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri and South Carolina -- have explicitly barred that practice.