Things That Matter

Here’s How The New York Dream Act Will Help Undocumented Students Achieve Their Dreams

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The New York Senate passed a breakthrough Dream Act bill that will assist thousands of undocumented immigrants to pursue higher education. New York’s state Senate passed the Dream Act, which will provide access to state college tuition aid to undocumented immigrants. The bill is the same in name as the federal measure that would give provisional green cards to undocumented people who came to the U.S. as children. New York’s version focuses on another issue in the national immigration debate: college tuition.

The Dream Act passed the New York Senate with a 40-20 vote in what is a historic moment for undocumented youth in the state of New York.

The bill, which passed the New York Assembly with a 90-37 vote, will allow New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, to qualify for scholarships and the New York State Tuition Assistance Program if they meet certain criteria.

Applicants must have done one of the following to qualify:

Graduated from a New York state high school they attended for at least two years;

Applied for college within five years of receiving a high school diploma;

Graduated from a certified high school equivalency program

Be otherwise eligible for in-state tuition.

The Dream Act quickly became a top priority for the state senate since New York Democrats control it for the first time in a decade. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has confirmed he will sign the measure into law.

The bill is expected to affect an estimated 146,000 young people who attended New York public schools but have been ineligible to receive financial aid under federal and state law, according to an analysis by the N.Y.U. Law School’s Immigrant Rights Clinic.

The bill represents a gateway to higher education that was previously an afterthought for the countless undocumented youth in New York.

Yatziri Tovar, a DREAMer and Make the Road New York activist, has spent the last few years advocating for the Dream Act bill. She acknowledges the significance of the bill and what it means to so many people in a state that were previously cut off from pursuing college due to financial reasons.

“Back when I was still in high school is when I started advocating for the bill and even during my entire time in college I was fighting for the bill to become reality,” Tovar said. “I was full of emotions and truly happy that future students will be able to not worry about finances because in college the anxiety and fears that you get because of money drive you crazy.”

Immigrant rights groups praised the legislative victory as a win for local organizing efforts at the state-wide level. Make the Road New York, an immigration rights organization, has been fighting for this bill since the start. The organization hopes this is just the start of more opportunities for undocumented people in the state.

Tovar says she has spoken with many high school students who now have clear intentions of applying to college thanks to the Dream Act. She says they are ecstatic to hear the news that money won’t get in the way of school anymore. “They’ve been fighting for this for years and our youth is fired up about this victory.”

Critics say the cost of the Dream Act is too high but supporters say the long-term financial benefit of educating immigrant students outweighs the costs.

Republican senators in the state criticized the bill questioning why it should pass for people that “are in this country illegally.” Another argument against it was the initial costs of the bill. Gov. Cuomo has included the measure in his state budget, in which he budgeted $27 million annually for it.

New York joins 15 other states in the U.S. that currently offer in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. While six states, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, and South Carolina, have intentionally banned similar measures.

“We must do everything we can at the state level to make it easier for immigrants, regardless of their status, to get an education that will empower them to better contribute to our communities across New York state,” state Democratic Sen. Robert Jackson told KGUN9.

What’s next for undocumented immigrants in New York?

The New York state legislature is now expected to take up more measures that will boost opportunities for those without lawful immigration status including drivers licenses. While talks are still early and there is expected to be Republican push back, immigrant rights groups are happy to see these measures being discussed.

Tovar says the Dream Act is first of many priorities for the undocumented community that includes gaining rights to a drivers license. She notes many undocumented people have been deported because they had no identification on them during traffic stops.

“The Dream Act was a huge victory for our youth but New York can do more,” Tovar says. “We are fighting for driving licenses because a simple traffic stop can lead to deportation and public transportation isn’t always available. We hope they can accomplish that this year.”

The passed bill is named The Jose Peralta New York Dream Act, after state Sen. Jose Peralta, who advocated for the bill for years before his death from cancer last year. His wife Evelyn, two kids, and his mother were in attendance to watch the bill pass.

“Today my husband’s dream becomes our reality,” Evelyn Peralta said after the vote. “To every immigrant hearing my words, we love you, we see you and we welcome you into our American family.”


READ: The Supreme Court Won’t Hear The DACA Case This Term Letting The Program Continue

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The Homestead Detention Center Just Transferred Out All Migrants Kids But May Welcome New Ones As Soon As October

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The Homestead Detention Center Just Transferred Out All Migrants Kids But May Welcome New Ones As Soon As October

V Kilpatrick / Pinterest

You’d be forgiven for thinking that maybe the Trump administration was reconsidering the way it was treating migrant children who are crossing the boarder. Especially since earlier this month, we’d reported that the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in Miami, Florida, was to close. However, it looks like Homestead is set to reopen again – as soon as this October.

Well, that didn’t last long.

Pinterest / Jordan Malone

The beginning of the month saw the last of the children, who were detained at the facility, removed. While it’s difficult to say exactly how many children were originally housed at the detention center due to the overcrowding that’s taken place across holding facilities nationwide, it’s thought that there were between 2700 to 3000 children staying at Homestead. Part of the reason why Caliburn International, the company that runs Homestead, was instructed to reduce its detainees in the first place was due to government compliance issues. That is, the government had introduced new standards in preparation for hurricane season.

We still don’t know where the previous group of children went after leaving Homestead.

Pinterest / Chance Vintage

Even though the children were removed, it’s not clear what happened to the children once they’d left Homestead. The fact Caliburn International is a for-profit company and still required staff to show up for work, despite there being no detainees, has also clouded the issue. At the time of writing, reports say that while 1,700 employees had been dismissed due to the center officially closing, more than 2,500 kept their jobs. It’s not clear what they’re doing at Homestead while they await new inmates.

And because Homestead is an influx center, it doesn’t require a state license. 

Twitter / @marwilliamson

Typically speaking, influx centers are essentially designed to house a large number of inmates, in case the government suddenly finds itself inundated by asylum seekers. These centers are only intended for short stays, which is why they can legally hold a larger number of detainees. Otherwise, Homestead’s population would be capped at 500 children. And while we’re on the subject of numbers – temporary facilities like Homestead are actually more expensive, in the long run. They cost the government around $775 a day per child, while permanent shelters run at about $250 per day per child. Nice to know everyone’s tax dollars are being spent wisely.

Is this all starting to should kinda familiar to you? Yea, us too.

Pinterest / PolitcusUSA

If you’ve been paying attention to the news, it should. The US government recently argued in federal court that it shouldn’t have to provide things like toothbrushes and soap to detainees, since they were only being temporarily housed in the facility in Clint, Texas. Spoiler alert: the judges didn’t buy that argument, since inmates are being held for months at a time at these facilities. Again, these places that don’t provide basic necessities for inmates are more expensive to run than a more permanent facilities. 

But, we digress.

Pinterest / Chance Vintage

Oddly enough, even though Homestead is set to open again in October, Caliburn’s contract expires November 30. At this stage, it’s unclear whether the company will see the contract renewed, or whether a new contract will be opened up to competitive bidding. Apparently the original contract with Caliburn was awarded without competition, which was done so around the same time John Kelly, Trump’s ex-chief of staff, joined the company’s board of advisers. Bueno.

All of this shows that it’s still business as usual.

Pinterest / V kilpatrick

At the same time, even if the contract for Homestead was open to competitive bidding, it’s unlikely that much would change at the facility for the children who will be staying there. Companies and non-profits that promote asylum seeker’s rights and would likely provide safe and comfortable facilities have little interest in bidding for such contracts, since the very policies motivating them are diametrically opposed to the espoused values of these organizations. 

At the end of the day, this is all semantics. Because while it’s definitely important that we examine the ways that we detain migrants, and ensure that everyone receives due process, we’re not asking the most important question of all: should we even be detaining children for seeking asylum?

A Judge In NY Has To Decide If Unvaccinated Children Should Be Allowed In School Risking The Lives Of Other Children

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A Judge In NY Has To Decide If Unvaccinated Children Should Be Allowed In School Risking The Lives Of Other Children

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Just two months ago, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that mandates vaccination for children old enough to attend schools, and participate in education with other children, unless otherwise advised by a doctor. The legislation came after the spread of misinformation about vaccines caused a series of measles outbreaks in the spring. Scientific literature based on decades worth of data from tens of thousands of children has proven vaccination safe and effective for the public.

Attorney’s Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Michael Sussman filed a class action suit for about three dozen parents who claim that vaccinating their children goes against their faith. Wednesday, Albany courtrooms were packed with over 1,000 anti-vaxxers who wanted to hear how the judge would rule in a debate around religious freedom vs. public health.

The crowd of anti-vaxxers wore white in reference to the Argentine mothers who wore white as they protested their government’s brutal killings and disappearances of their liberal children.

Credit: @GwynneFitz / Twitter

The anti-vaxxers feel that the implication of the government forcing them to vaccine their children from measles is tantamount to the Argentine government killing or “disappearing” 30,000 young, leftist political activists from existence in the 1970s. 

In April 1977, 14 mothers, wearing images of their missing children’s faces around their neck, marched around the Presidential Palace in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires. They took a stand against a violent government in a defiant act to demand justice for their children.

These New York parents also feel the law doesn’t allow enough time to find proper education for their children. 

Credit: @GwynneFitz / Twitter

The demonstrators told Gothamist reporters, Gwynne Hogan and Claire Lampen, that “the new law effectively disappeared their children from the school system.” If the religious exemptions aren’t upheld, their alternative would be to homeschool their children or move to a different state.

“[We’re] hoping that our kids are granted the right to go back to school. Our children have been kicked out,” Long Island mother Amy McBride, 41, told Gothamist. “We’ve all been meeting, trying to look at curriculums, understand how to make it work, what the regulations are, understanding what it takes to actually do that…Our beliefs are steadfast and sincere and true and we’re not going to cave.”

The lawyers in the case argued that legislators demonstrated “active hostility toward religion.”

Credit: @GwynneFitz / Twitter

“[These children] are going to have nowhere to go to school…They have no idea what they are going to do with these children,” Sussman said. New York State attorney Helena Lynch refuted that claim. “The actual legislative record is so clear that the motivation was public health,” Lynch said. “The right to religious expression does not encompass the right to place others in danger.”

Lynch also expressed that legislators aren’t targeting religious groups but are genuinely “skeptical” that those choosing not to vaccinate their kids were expressing personal beliefs rather than religious ones. The crux of the argument seems to rest on public health risk for allowing the religious exemption, especially when an approximate 26,000 children would be unvaccinated in New York schools.

The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Senator Brad Hoylman from Manhattan, specifically wanted to eliminate the religious exemption as the key reason for the recent spread of measles.

Credit: @GwynneFitz / Twitter

You have a First Amendment right to practice your own religion, but you do not have the right to endanger your children or worse other people’s children,” he told a press conference. Already, 14 percent of pre-school aged children in Williamsburg are estimated to be unvaccinated for religious reasons or otherwise. Another 28 percent in Rockland County were unvaccinated.

The anti-vaxxers expressed that they wished New York followed in California’s suit by allowing a year for the law to take effect. But public health advocates cite a sense of urgency for public safety measures, “This needs to be done, not tomorrow, not in a week, not in a month, and not in a year,” said one activist. “It must be done immediately, the numbers are gaining strength.”

Crowds packed even this overflow room as they waited for the judge’s answer.

Credit: @GwynneFitz / Twitter

They never heard it. Judge Hartman hasn’t made her decision yet about whether to allow 26,000 unvaccinated children go to New York schools in time for school start dates just three weeks from the hearing. The anti-vaxxers want her to put a stay on the state law which would allow those children to go to school while she continues to hear the case and make a final, permanent decision.

READ: A 12-Year-Old Mexican Boy Hilariously Trolled Anti-Vaxxers In This Viral Video

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