Sitting in an open area, filled with newly registered students, I hear my name being called. I step into the financial aid office at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the hopes of finding answers to the many questions, doubts and uncertainties a soon to be college freshmen can have. I am welcomed by the administrator with the following command, “please type in your social security number.” A social security number that would help decide how much assistant I would receive. A nine-digit number that would help the computer figure out my whole history, numbers I do not have.
With tuition on the rise, the lack of financial assistance for undocumented youth and the failure of the federal Dream Act, states have taken matters into their own hands. In New York, we have spearheaded the New York Dream Act campaign. This bill, which was introduced on March 22 of last year, would provide equal access to financial aid for undocumented youth who meet the TAP and in-state tuition requirements. As it stands, to qualify for in-state tuition in New York, one must have graduated from a state high school or obtained a New York G.E.D, file an affidavit and show proof of domicile.
Efforts to pass the New York Dream Act have started even before this legislative session. A petition demanding that Albany pass the bill has been circulating for some time and NYSYLC youth have also arranged to take a trip upstate, today, March 6.
But, why go upstate?
Undocumented youth, and our supporters, are tired of waiting for something to happen legislatively. We are tired of being misrepresented, misunderstood and many times, excluded from the same discussions that would define our future. We are going to Albany to show the human face behind the numbers, to highlight the struggles and stories that go untold due to fear. We are going upstate because we cannot put our education on hold any more. I myself had to take a semester off from college due to the lack of financial aid and stable income. The New York Dream Act would help me, and many more students, be able to attend, finish and realize our dreams of holding in our hands that desired college diploma. Due to the lack of scholarships offered to undocumented students, many of us cannot graduate in four years and struggle to even work while attending school. The New York Dream Act would provide the financial aid assistance to finish school in a reasonable amount of time and better prepare us to give back to our community, our state. We are going to Albany because those most impacted by an issue should be the ones leading, speaking, mobilizing and organizing around efforts that would provide relief.
We are in a time where states are banning undocumented students from college in Georgia, racially profiling in Arizona and much more. We, New Yorkers, need to put our strength behind pro-immigrant state bills like the New York Dream Act which would set the example and push immigrant friendly dialogue to other states and our country as well.
Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty will always be landmark-reminders of the immigrants who came before us carrying their dreams and hopes for the future. Today, immigrants come with the same vision of a better life, and that starts with having access to education by signing the New York Dream Act into law.
If you couldn’t go to Albany you can still be involved.
- Let us know how the New York Dream Act would impact you
- Follow us on twitter @NYSYLC @NYDreamAct #ActionNYDA and spread the word!
- Like us on facebook and update your default picture to show support for the New York Dream Act as well as your status
- Sign and share the petition and start a petition drive
- Find out who your state senators and assembly members are and thank them or demand they support the New York Dream Act, find your senators here
- Write a blog on tumblr, facebook, myspace or local paper
- Distribute these New York Dream Act sheets
- For more information or ways on getting active, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org