Fordham University is urging New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the state legislature to pass the New York State Dream Act, which would allow undocumented immigrant students who meet in-state tuition requirements in New York to access state financial aid for higher education.
Calling the immigration issue “the new civil rights movement of the 21st century,” Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, wrote to the governor on March 27, saying that the issue must be addressed, and that universities have a role to play in doing so.
Educational access and opportunity are “the keys to future success,” Father McShane wrote, and he called on the governor to pass the Dream Act to “help to alleviate the costs that arise from not addressing the issue of immigration in a comprehensive and compassionate manner.”
The bill, originally championed by the New York State Youth Leadership Council and introduced by Senator Bill Perkins and Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, was first introduced on March 22. The proposed law is supported by a large coalition of immigrants’ rights groups, the New York Board of Regents, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the City and State universities of New York, and a number of private universities.
Since the federal Dream Act (which Fordham also supported) stalled in Congress, some states have passed their own versions of the bill to make college more affordable to undocumented students. Thirteen, including New York, allow undocumented immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition rates. Only three states allow them to receive state government tuition aid: Texas, New Mexico, and California.
“Since 1841, Fordham University has been the institution of the new immigrant experience,” Father McShane wrote. “Not only was Fordham built by immigrants, its very presence enduringly represents the collective dreams of the immigrant experience…. We recognize that the face of the immigrant movement has changed and that the movement itself has shifted and evolved with the developments of the 21st century. Despite those changes and shifts, the collective dream of the immigrant movement remains the same: to do better, to thrive and to succeed once given the chance and opportunity to compete.”