The newly emboldened Democratic-led New York State Legislature waded into the battle over immigrants’ rights on Wednesday, approving a bill that for the first time offers undocumented students access to state financial aid and scholarships for higher education.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has confirmed he will sign the measure into law.
The Dream Act is the latest in a wave of state-level protections for immigrants as blue state legislatures increasingly seek to act as a counterbalance to President Trump’s federal immigration policies. These issues are also expected to play a prominent role in the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential primary, with candidates who are courting liberal activists supporting the state measures.
After New York Democrats won control of the State Senate in November for the first time in a decade, protections for immigrants became a legislative priority. They included permitting undocumented residents to obtain state driver’s licenses and reducing maximum jail sentences for certain misdemeanors that could otherwise lead to deportation.
“It took us almost a decade to get the Dream Act, and it’s going to take another five, 10, 20 years to undo the damage that Washington is causing our families,” said Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz of Queens, who was born in Colombia and came to New York as an undocumented child.
Even as the bill gained passage, the New York Immigration Coalition and other advocates were pushing for lawmakers to “dream bigger” and address issues like expanded funding for immigrant legal services and health care for immigrants.
All these measures, lawmakers say, could act as a bulwark against Republican efforts in Washington and the ongoing standoff over the nation’s southern border.
By Christina Goldbaum for THE NEW YORK TIMES
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