‘A Dream Come True’: Emotional Scenes at NY DREAM Act Vote

Olivert Saldivia (right), a Dreamer member of Make the Road New York, arrived in Albany early in the morning to witness the big day. (Photo via El Diario)

It’s been years of uncertainty and worry for ‘Dreamer’ Olivert Saldivia. In 2015, the young Hispanic not only saw the “cruel anti-immigrant campaign” of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump build momentum, he was also so worried about his next step: college.

“After graduating from high school in 2015, I realized that getting to college without access to state financial aid was going to be a great barrier,” said Saldivia, who, due to his immigration status, did not qualify for student loans, work-study jobs, or any other financial assistance. “With the help of grants and several jobs I have been able to go to university, but without knowing whether I will be able to pay the next semester.”

But this Wednesday, two years into the mogul’s arrival in the White House, Saldivia celebrated that finally, after almost a decade of ups-and-downs, the state legislature approved the longed-for New York State DREAM Act, named the José Peralta New York State DREAM Act in memory of the state senator who passed away in November 2018 and was a passionate advocate for the Act.

“Today, all of that [difficulties to study] has changed because with the approval of the New York DREAM Act I will be able to pursue my dream of becoming a mechanical engineer,” said Saldivia, a member of pro-immigrant organization Make the Road New York (MRNY) who, along with hundreds of other New York students, arrived in Albany early in the morning to witness the big day.

And it was truly a historic day. From 5:00 a.m., dozens of buses filled with students, activists and elected officials left from different areas of New York City and the state (…)

For Richard Salinas, a high school student and also a member of MRNY, the approval of the NY DREAM Act is a victory for all immigrant youths.

“Last year, when I applied for different universities in the hopes of continuing my education, my college counselor told me that I didn’t qualify for any financial aid due to my immigration status,” said Salinas. “That’s why young immigrants like me need the New York DREAM Act (…)”.

In a room filled with immigrant students, and in the presence of Evelyn Peralta, widow of José Peralta, Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa (from District 72, which includes parts of Hamilton Heights, Harlem, Inwood and Washington Heights), applauded the former senator’s dedication and commitment to the immigrant community.

The [NY] DREAM Act will allow immigrant students, many of whom don’t know any other country than this one, “to step out of the shadows and use higher education to live their American dream,” said De La Rosa.

Beside her, New York State Assembly’s Speaker Carl Heastie said that “the Assembly majority believes in tearing down barriers, not creating them.” (…)

The next ‘dream’: Drivers’ licenses

On the same day that the ‘Dreamers’ dream became reality, pro-immigrant activists indicated that now they must work to push the State Legislature to dream up something much bigger: Drivers’ licenses for the undocumented.

“The passage of the Jose Peralta New York State Dream Act is an incredible win for undocumented youth (…) but it’s only a drop in the bucket. (…) New York State must do more to protect and empower immigrant New Yorkers in the wake of unprecedented attacks on immigrants by the Trump administration,” said Steven Choi, executive director of New York Immigrants Coalition (NYIC).

The activist exhorted Albany to approve not only the licenses, but also “$40 million to Census outreach and education and increasing funding for legal services statewide.”


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