NY DREAM Act Will ‘Change Lives’ on Long Island

Osman Canales, founder and director of Long Island Immigrant Students Advocates (LIISA). (Photo via Noticia LI)

“I personally know many youths on Long Island who were waiting for the New York DREAM Act and this is going to be the start of a change in their lives,” said Osman Canales, founder and director of Long Island Immigrant Students Advocates (LIISA), after the state legislature recently approved a bill that allows public financial aid for undocumented students who seek a college education. (…)

“It is a really touching moment for me, as I have been fighting for this since the Dreamers bill was first introduced in 2011,” remembers Canales, adding that without the pressure exerted by New York youths and the work of such community organizations as LIISA the feat would not have been possible.

“I am celebrating for all the youths I have met on Long Island; I have heard their stories and how difficult it is for them to finance their studies because they don’t have the resources, and this DREAM Act is giving them the opportunity.”

(…) The joy of the students is also shared by professionals like Dr. Harold Fernández, who has worked alongside LIISA for years.

“I’m really happy that the New York Senate has finally approved the DREAM Act, I think it’s a great step forward for students who want to go to college,” said Fernández at a conference on the same day the bill passed.

Fernández, originally from Colombia, arrived in the U.S. as a child, was an undocumented student and had to overcome many challenges to get his medical degrees in Princeton and Harvard universities. He highlighted the importance of never losing hope for youths without legal status who wish to go to college.

“My advice is to be prepared and to go to college because they never know when the opportunity to legalize will arrive, and they need to be ready to improve themselves and be professionals (…),” he said.

Rocío Ramos, a student at Huntington who joined LIISA two months ago to help kids coming from other countries, believes the NY DREAM Act is the best tool for them to achieve their goals.

“It can help many students who want to pursue higher education, improve the lives of those who are here, and also improve the economy on many levels,” she said.

However, for María Elena León, member of the LIISA directive board, the bill won’t benefit all students, as those who graduated more than two years ago will not access the benefits. “It is fantastic that we are making a bit of progress in New York even though it doesn’t cover everyone who needs it,” she said.

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