From Washington to Trenton, there is movement to right a wrong through two dream acts with related but separate purposes.
In Washington, Republican representatives are talking about forcing a vote on the federal Dream Act, the one that would protect young people brought into this country by their parents from being deported.
Only Congress can act on such basic citizenship issues. But states can help undocumented immigrants in other ways.
In Trenton, the New Jersey Legislature passed and Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law that would allow undocumented immigrants who graduate from high school in the state to qualify for financial aid.
And in Albany?
Well, as usual, the state version of the Dream Act, one that would provide the same access to financial aid as in New Jersey, is stalled again in the state Senate.
There are two ways that Republicans in New York work to defeat this measure. The first is by inaction, the continuing determination of state senators, including those from our districts, to let the bill die in committee.
The other way is lying.
Candidates and elected officials alike prefer to put this proposed law in terms designed to appeal to the worst in the worst people by saying that it would provide a free college education to illegal immigrants while hard-working New Yorkers have to pay the whole bill.
The truth, as many of those making those claims know very well, is that this does not make college free. What it does do is recognize that these youngsters, brought into the country as children, who have graduated from high school, stayed out of trouble and obtained admission to a college should be eligible to apply for the same financial aid as other students, the ones with all the proper papers.
The New York Dream Act rewards the kind of good behavior and hard work that some of those same politicians claim to revere. It’s called the Dream Act because it would allow those young people to get that much farther down the road to the American Dream.
Sens. Bill Larkin and John Bonacic, having announced their retirements at the end of this term, could add to their already admirable legacies by abandoning the unilateral party obstructionism and supporting this bill.
There is even a political reason to do so. One of the Democrats who has been interested in running for Larkin’s seat is Assemblyman James Skoufis of Woodbury. He voted for the Dream Act earlier but voted against the latest version for two reasons.
The stated reason was that it would allow Dreamers to take advantage of all financial aid programs including one which he opposed, the notion of free tuition at state colleges and universities. The real reason was so that he could hold up that vote and appeal to Republicans should he run for a higher office.
So if Republicans want to disrupt the campaign for that important Senate seat, one that might make the difference when it comes to party control, they could pass the Dream Act and put Skoufis on the defensive.
Or they could vote for it because it’s the right thing to do.