Students Walk to Albany to Support NYS DREAM Act

Gary Santos Mendoza and Senators

Gary Santos Mendoza (right) met several senators, including Senator Bill Perkins (middle). Senator Gustavo Rivera (left) spoke in favor of the NYS DREAM Act.

A group of immigrant youth that included seven Lehman College students recently walked 150 miles, from New York City to Albany, to raise awareness about educational access for undocumented students.

The eight-day walk to the State Capitol came in response to the Governor’s decision not to include the NYS DREAM Act in the State’s 2013 budget. The legislation would offer undocumented immigrants access to State financial aid for higher education. Young supporters of the bill set out on their trek on April 9, with the goal of urging State representatives to vote in favor of the Act before the end of the legislative session in June.

Between 4,500 and 5,000 undocumented students are enrolled in CUNY, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.

“Undocumented students also pay taxes,” said walk co-coordinator and Lehman student Gary Santos Mendoza. “But they don’t have access to financial aid. If the DREAM Act passes, undocumented immigrants will be able to have access to financial aid and scholarships so they can pay for their education.”

To promote the walk, the New York State Youth Leadership Council mobilized CUNY students, including the Lehman Dream Team. Students from Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Colombia walked with the Brooklyn College chapter to support the act. Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, along with individual supporters, housed them along the way.

“Some of the communities, from town to town, got a better understanding of what exactly the NYS DREAM Act is,” said Santos Mendoza. “Now they can start calling their senator.”