NY Candidates Use Dream Act to Get Votes

The Dream Act would be one of the few reasons for Latinos to go to the polls on Nov. 4. (Photo by Marlene Peralta via El Diario)

The Dream Act would be one of the few reasons for Latinos to go to the polls on Nov. 4. (Photo by Marlene Peralta via El Diario)

During a visit to Hostos Community College this week in which he attempted to gain the favor of Latino voters, Gov. Andrew Cuomo reiterated that he will fight for the approval of the Dream Act if he is reelected.

In spite of this, a group of students interrupted Cuomo’s speech, yelling out that he had not done enough to get the measure approved during his first term.

For Latinos, the Dream Act NY could be one of the few motivators to go vote on Nov. 4. On the other hand, the community’s disappointment about the law’s delay could cause them to refrain from casting their ballot.

Some experts say that politicians have discounted Latino voters precisely because they vote in small numbers.

Activists with the Make the Road Action Fund on Long Island are holding a campaign to generate more votes for the Dream Act. “We ask you to become Dreamer voters and to cast your vote for the candidates who support the act,” said Daniel Altschuler, director of the Action Fund. All nine Republican senators on Long Island followed the lead of the rest of their party, voting against the measure last June.

Democratic political and public affairs consultant Eli Valentín said that “the best way to protest these negative conditions is by voting and not staying at home complaining.” Valentín points out that, in spite of the dissatisfaction shared by the community – whose members frequently express the view that political parties look down on them – “if they stay home and the Senate gets a Republican majority, then the Dream Act will be impossible to pass.”

Actually, the New York Republican State Committee is citing the act to prevent Democratic Senate candidates from winning in key districts. One of them is Justin Wagner, who aspires to represent Hudson Valley. A flyer mailed to prospective voters said that if Justin Wagner is elected “illegal immigrants will get free college tuition.” The paper featured a picture of the candidate and of people who appeared Hispanic jumping over the border wall.

The project that Sen. José Peralta proposed in the Senate fell short of passing by only two votes – 30 to 29, with 32 votes needed for approval – last June. After the defeat, pro-immigrant activists asked the governor to include funds in the state’s budget to help undocumented students gain access to governmental financial aid. This was not approved either, even though Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli himself said that adding $20 million to the budget would not represent a significant burden to the state.

“The question was not whether we had the money; the question was whether there was political will to adopt it,” said Peralta, who is also up for reelection, to El Diario this week.

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