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With comprehensive immigration reform receiving so much media attention in the past several months, the terms “DREAM Act” and “DREAMers” has been used more and more frequently to describe the undocumented foreign nationals who were brought to the U.S. as children, and who do not have immigration status.

The DREAM Act, which stands for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act and which provides immigration relief to this population, was first introduced into Congress in 2001 but has failed to become law for the past decade.  DREAMers thought they were close to having the law passed in December 2010 when the House of Representatives passed the bill.  However, the legislation did not pass in the Senate and so the DREAM Act again failed to become law.

In June 2012, President Obama took matters into his own hands when he announced his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which would allow DREAMers to apply for work authorization and to have their deportation proceedings suspended for two years while they await the passage of comprehensive immigration reform.

The DREAM Act would provide numerous invaluable benefits to the qualifying undocumented population, such as giving them legal status, a pathway to U.S. citizenship, and work authorization.  Since the DREAM Act continues to fail at the federal level, many states have taken it upon themselves to enact similar laws in their own legislatures.

Recently, New York became the latest state to introduce its own version of the law, called the New York Dream Act (NYDA).  While slightly different from its federal counterpart, the NYDA maintains much of the same substance.  Notably, the legislation would allow DREAMers to qualify for in-state tuition assistance at New York private and public colleges.  The bill specifically allocates $25 million to a Tuition Assistant Program (TAP) that would be created for DREAMers.  (New York technically already allows DREAMers to qualify for in-state tuition but most DREAMers do not qualify for tuition assistance, a problem which the TAP would hopefully address).

The NYDA passed in the State Assembly but did not get enough votes to pass the Senate, where it had 30 votes but needed 32 to pass. The bill had received much support from newly-elected New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo has stated he will sign the bill if it is passed by the Senate.

Advocates from the New York DREAM ACT Coalition have promised to keep the fight going. If you are a DREAMer, contact our Brooklyn or New York offices to speak to one of our attorneys about your options in light of the Obama’s Administration’s DACA policy, and New York’s state laws.  Our attorneys are happy to assist DREAMers in obtaining work authorization, deferred action, and all other immigration needs.  We look forward to hearing from you!

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Also of Interest:

How do I get my Green Card in New York?