by Zarin Siddiqua
“DACA students’ lives should be valued. It is important that they have equal opportunities such as access to Financial Aid that will open their doors to success,” said Kayla Bannered, a Lehman Student majoring in Sociology.
Those opportunities are now closer to being realized in New York. According to the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation, in June of 2019 the Democratic party was able to pass legislation to approve the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. This program aims to help undocumented youth who came to this country under the age of 18 gain legal status, education and work permits. It also promises undocumented students access to grants and scholarships that support higher education cost.
The battle for the DREAM Act has been fought for decades. According to the Immigration Council, then-president Barack Obama first proposed to protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients in 2010, which sought to prevent their deportation and help them get work permits. Eight years later, the Democratic party won the New York State Senate and one of its first priorities became the protection of undocumented immigrants.
Gaining a college education has always been difficult for Dreamers because they don’t get financial aid or tuition assistance programs. This means that undocumented students face many more challenges. According to the New York State Dream Act, about 8,300 DACA students attend public institutions for higher education in New York. The City University of New York (CUNY) along with Lehman College have provided an excellent support and resources for these students to thrive.
CUNY Citizenship Now provides free immigration-related consultation, assisting undocumented students with applications for citizenship and educating them about their legal rights and access to higher education. Lehman College also holds different events and sessions to educate dreamers about DACA Debrief, immigration guides and Legal Resources presentation. Lehman also stays committed to supporting the Dream Act through The Lehman Dream Team, created by undocumented students and their allies to make a safe and friendly environment for students who live in the shadows.
According to the news website Thinkprogress, assemblywoman Catalina Cruz suggests that because the approval of the Dream Act proposal took almost decade, it will take more years to be finalized. Cruz herself was undocumented when she first arrived the US, and experienced firsthand how limited resources created great struggles for her to obtain a higher education.
“I hope the Dreamers get every opportunity that they deserve just like every other student in America, because they too are American,” said Bricenia Diaz, a Lehman sophomore majoring in Psychology and minoring in Middle school and High School Education.
Some Lehman staff suggest the officialization of the Dream Act will result in more successful graduations within CUNY. “It would be nice to see a change in some demographics in the CUNY system,” said Mark Keegan, a professor of history at Lehman College. Getting access to more opportunities will allow more people to attend college and have a career.