This is the first in a three-part series of town halls on Immigration Reform and focused on the importance of access to education for immigrant families

Queens, NY – Today, New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, elected officials and advocates hosted a town hall meeting at LaGuardia Community College in support of comprehensive immigration reform and the New York State DREAM Act. Speaker Quinn was joined by Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Council Member Daniel Dromm, Council Member Julissa Ferreras, Council Member Koo and representatives from Assembly Member Francisco Moya and Senator Jose Peralta’s office.

This is the first in a three-part series of town halls on Immigration Reform and focused on the importance of access to education for immigrant families, regardless of immigration status.

The New York State DREAM Act will give undocumented students, who satisfy certain conditions, greater access to higher education by opening up financial aid and tuition assistance programs. Currently, documentation status makes several of these students ineligible for most forms of financial aid, making tuition an overwhelming weight.

“Immigrants make up the fabric of our country and we need to send a strong message that immigration status should never keep motivated students from obtaining a higher education,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “By increasing financial aid opportunities for immigrant students, the New York DREAM Act would provide students access to college and ensure that this state’s talent, regardless of immigrant status, can build a better future for themselves and move on to be our country’s next great leaders. The state of New York has a long legacy of championing equal educational opportunities. As the immigration debate comes to the forefront of the national spotlight, New York must once again take the lead on this important issue.”

Higher education has economic benefits for both students and society at large. According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, the median income of a New York State worker with a bachelor degree is $25,000 higher per year than for a high school graduate. Even students with a 2-year degree, earn about $10,000 more annually.
“I am optimistic that as we move forward in the struggle for immigration reform, this year will be the year when we see our dreams come true,” said Council Member and Chair of the New York City Council Committee on Immigration Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst). “It is my desire to see comprehensive immigration reform that includes LGBT families and supports for our undocumented immigrant youth.”

“I want to thank Speaker Quinn for the continual support and strong advocacy since day one on the fight for immigration reform and the New York State DREAM Act. Immigrants from all walks of life have enriched this city and the borough of Queens from the dawn of this City’s founding. At this Town Hall and in kitchen table conversations across this State, the momentum for a New York State DREAM Act is continuing to grow. The time has come to show the strength of our immigrant communities and the diverse benefits they will bring to our social and economic fabric,” said Assemblyman Francisco Moya

“New York City has always paved the way for generations of immigrants who have become the backbone of this nation,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. “Through this series of town halls and the continued support of the New York State DREAM Act we hope to provide an outlet to the thousands of immigrant voices who would have otherwise gone unheard in their search to achieve the American Dream. It is our obligation as elected officials who represent one of the most progressive states in the nation to provide the proper educational resources and social services that can assist America’s new incoming residents to become the leaders of tomorrow.”

“While I am encouraged by the national discussion our nation is having about comprehensive immigration reform, it is essential that any final legislative package include the DREAM Act,” said U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens). “Providing a pathway to citizenship for those who were brought the United States as children is critical to any overhaul of our nation’s immigration laws, and must be priority in our efforts to fix our broken immigration system. I thank Speaker Quinn and Assemblyman Moya for keeping the spotlight on this crucial issue.”

“We talk a lot about the American Dream – how we’re going to help people achieve it, keep it, pass it on to their children. But, there is a group of young adults in our state who are denied any real shot at the American Dream and that must change,” said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx). “The future of our state’s economy depends on the ability of the next generation of New Yorkers to get a higher education and compete for well-paying jobs. While we work toward comprehensive immigration reform, the New York DREAM Act will open up opportunities for kids who want nothing more than to advance their education and continue to contribute to society.”

“While young people currently have the ability to apply for deferred action, that’s just a stopgap measure. We need to pass the DREAM Act to give young immigrants a chance to fully participate in American society and we need comprehensive immigration reform to fix a system that is badly broken,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney.

“Immigration is a very important issue for the many residents in our district,” said Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan. “This year the enacted state budget included an additional appropriation of $1 million for the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Transition Fund, a program to help young adults who are eligible for the federal Deferred Action
for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.”

“For many undocumented immigrants, America is the only country they know,” State Senator Jose Peralta said. “In their hearts and minds they are American. We need to start treating them that way. The DREAM Act is a sound investment in our workforce and our future that will eventually pay for itself many times over. We should embrace young people who want to go to college, work and pay taxes, not treat them like social outcasts.”

“The ingenuity and drive of immigrants to improve their quality of life has always been the driving force behind the vibrant growth and progress of our country,” Council Member Julissa Ferreras said. “Our duty as legislators is to make it possible for bright, hard-working immigrants to afford to earn an education and become the community leaders who will carry us forward. Together, we will continue striving towards our goals of creating opportunities for these young undocumented individuals to become the taxpayers, innovators and entrepreneurs that our nation needs in order to yield a prosperous future.”

New York City Council Member Leroy Comrie said, “New York City was built by immigrants, and we need to ensure those coming to this country seeking a better life have every opportunity to do so. When my parents immigrated to the U.S., they made it a priority for us to help others who came after them become acclimated to the obvious culture shock of coming from Jamaica, West Indies to Jamaica, Queens. It has been a privilege to continue that tradition through the creation of programs that serve immigrant communities such as the Immigrant Opportunities Initiative which provides funding for ESL classes, legal assistance and job training. I would like to thank Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Council Member Danny Dromm, my colleagues in the Council, and ASAAL, for all the work they continue to do and for hosting this forum.”

“The DREAM Act ensures that immigrants who have come to America’s shores have the opportunity to obtain higher education and a decent paying job. Now is the time to pass this act, which will only make this nation stronger, and keep New York City at the forefront of progressive issues,” said Council Member Donovan Richards.

Our nation was founded on the principle of freedom for all. It took quite some time for all citizens to be included in that definition, but nevertheless, we are a society that prides itself on each person’s right to live freely. For this reason, people from all over the world seek citizenship here in the United States. I support immigration and all mechanisms of government that can ease the process toward legal citizenship. At the Council, I have supported the Immigration Opportunity Initiative, CUNY Citizenship Now, and other programs which support opportunities
for immigrants,” said Council Member Wills.

“I’m proud to represent a district in Queens, which is the most diverse county in the country. We must keep working with our immigrant communities to improve the City, and I thank Speaker Quinn, Assemblyman Francisco Moya, and advocate groups for arranging this town hall,” said Council Member Elizabeth Crowley

“The New York State DREAM act must become a reality during this year since it is morally wrong to deny talented undocumented students the right of equal education and equal opportunity, when they only thing we want to do is to support and improve our new home, United Sates,” said Katherine Tabares Youth Leader of Make the Road NY

“Legislatures across the country have enacted state-level DREAM legislation, allowing their undocumented students to access state financial aid for higher education. It is about time for New York to do the same. We urge our Senate leaders and the Governor to support the dreams of our immigrant youth and ensure educational equality for all by passing the NYS DREAM Act,” said Jose Calderon, president, Hispanic Federation.

“This is not only an immigrant fairness and access issue, it is an economic issue. This is an investment with high returns,” said Marie Charles, Haitian Americans United for Progress.

“As a Christian leader, as a human being and as an immigrant, I think it is a moral and human duty to create a fair immigration reform and dignified manner in which immigrant families can be reunited and stay together. This is a neither political nor economic right, but instead is a sacred right. Fair immigration reform must provide the mechanism for immigrants who qualify to obtain their citizenship. Moreover, investing in the education of immigrant youth is investing in the future of the American nation,” said Rev. Dr. Ramon “Omar” Almonte, Senior Pastor Iglesia Bautista Central, Brooklyn, NY.

“This is a pivotal moment—we have the potential in the coming weeks and months to see state tuition assistance opened up to all students regardless of immigration status; we have the prospect of immigration reform at the federal level. And we’ve already seen opportunities expand for young people who’ve benefited from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA would not have happened, and reform and state DREAM won’t happen, without the full-on engagement of our communities, our civic leaders, and our elected officials. Hats off to the Speaker and the long list of city, state, and federal elected officials for not sitting on the sidelines, for holding this first in a series of immigration town halls. The New York Immigration Coalition has long addressed the issues arising at the intersection of education and immigration; and we are thrilled to work with those here today to bolster young people’s chances of graduating from high school, going to college, obtaining work permits, pursuing work in fields they’ve studied, and getting on a path to citizenship—along with their family members. This is the moment to do New York proud and lead the way,” said Chung Wha Hong, Executive Director, The New York Immigration Coalition.

“All students deserve the chance to pursue higher education and should receive equal access to TAP” said Emily Park, Youth program associate at MinKwon Center for Community Action. “And more importantly, all immigrants deserve to have pathway to citizenship. Documented or undocumented, every one of them is a future American. By passing the New York State DREAM Act and Comprehensive Immigration Reform, we are removing yet another barrier for these hard-working immigrants from realizing their American dreams and contributing back to the country that they call home.”

“Speaker Christine Quinn and her colleagues understand that new immigrants are the lifeblood of this city and nation,” said Dr. Gail O. Mellow, President of LaGuardia Community College. “Speaker Quinn has been a consistent and vocal advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. At the College, we strive to open the doors of higher education and create opportunities for all. Passage of The Dream Act will permit our students to realize their academic and career dreams and with Speaker Quinn, and the City Council’s continued support and leadership, that day will come soon.”

“I.A.M. Is excited to take part in a very important conversation about Immigration Reform on a state and federal level. We are happy that our legislators are taking the initiative of engaging the community at a time where both the NYS Dream Act and Comprehensive Immigration Reform are possible. That said, we need to continue to galvanize our community around getting both passed! We hope this town hall will help educate the community on such an important issue,” said Alexandra Ruiz from I.A.M.