Immigrant Advocates Call On NYS Legislature to “Dream Bigger”

January 23rd, 2019

Immigrant rights advocates, elected officials, and Dreamers call for a broader immigrant empowerment agenda, including expanding access to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants

ALBANY, NY - On the day the New York State legislature is expected to finally pass the Jose Peralta New York State Dream Act – that would extend state-funded scholarships to undocumented students – the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) and 100+ member organizations held a day of action calling to expand access to  driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants and other policies that protect and empower immigrant New Yorkers.

While advocates, Dreamers, and elected officials commended the passage of the New York State DREAM Act, they joined together to send a clear message: we must “dream bigger” by addressing key legislative priorities for New York immigrants.  The day of action included a series of forums and legislative meetings focused on the Blueprint for Immigrant New York – a broad, comprehensive policy agenda to ensure the success of immigrant communities in New York over the next decade.

"The passage of the Jose Peralta New York State Dream Act is an incredible win for undocumented youth and a powerful tribute to the late State Senator – but it's only a drop in the bucket. Senator Peralta was a champion for immigrant communities and the Dream Act is only a fraction of his legacy. New York State must do more to protect and empower immigrant New Yorkers in the wake of unprecedented attacks on immigrants by the Trump administration, by expanding access to driver's licenses, committing $40 million to Census outreach and education, and increasing funding for legal services statewide. Immigrant New Yorkers deserve nothing less than a bold legislative agenda in 2019 to foster their growth and safety," said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

“As the first DREAMer to be elected into the New York State Legislature, I am proud to sponsor the Jose Peralta DREAM Act, an important step in creating equity for our immigrant community. But our struggle continues -  we have the responsibility to continue fighting for additional protections, including drivers’ licenses for all, funding to ensure everyone is counted in the next census, and funding for comprehensive legal services to provide immigrants with effective representation when they are subject to the abuses of the current presidential administration,” said Assemblymember Catalina Cruz.

"I commend my colleagues for passing the DREAM ACT which will allow undocumented students to apply for the State's Tuition Assistance Program and other financial assistance. Although this bill is a good step, my office will not rest until we see to it that undocumented residents are granted full rights under the NY State Constitution. That includes amongst others the right to have a driver's license, to be protected from being profiled in State institutions, voting rights, and for the right to apply to professional licenses," said State Senator Julia Salazar.

“Today we celebrate a historic moment for New York State as we finally see the passage of the New York State DREAM Act through both houses of the legislature.  As immigrants we leave the comforts of our native countries in search of opportunities for progress and there is no greater tool to progress than education. After nearly a decade of advocacy, the struggle and plight of our Dreamers will finally see victory. Today we honor the immigrants who contributed immensely to the fabric of our communities. I look forward to working to ensure this is only the beginning of ushering in protections for the rights of immigrants in New York State," said Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa, sponsor of the bill.

“Today the legislature fulfilled its moral duty in recognizing the potential of undocumented students. Now, they have a pathway towards higher education and success. However, the plight of our undocumented citizenry has not been lifted, which is why I’m calling for additional mechanism, such as driver’s licenses, census funding, and legal defense funding to help lead them out of the shadows and into our light,” said Assemblymember Ron Kim.

“We want our New Americans to know we appreciate their contributions to our state, and we will continue the fight for what is right, no matter how tough the stakes may seem. By passing the DREAM Act, New York is sending a clear message that all students should have access to a quality education regardless of race, religion, or immigration status,” said Assemblywoman Michaelle C. Solages, the first person of Haitian descent elected to the New York State Legislature.

“Today’s passage of the New York State DREAM Act is a life-changing advancement for immigrant students across the state. This progress has been many years in the making and we applaud New York’s commitment to creating opportunities for families and people like my neighbors, friends, and coworkers. This is clearly a step in the right direction, and we continue to call on Governor Cuomo and New York state lawmakers to honor immigrants’ contributions and not to dismiss how urgently New York immigrant residents are in need of driver licenses. Providing driver licenses to undocumented New Yorkers would allow them to more fully participate in the state’s economy, would further increase financial stability, and significantly improve public safety. All New Yorkers deserve to have peace of mind and live without the fear that driving to work or dropping off their children at school could lead to deportation. Like with the New York DREAM Act, it is time to make another dream a reality for all New Yorkers,” said Pamela Chomba, Director of State Immigration Campaigns and Dreamer.

"Today, we celebrate the passage of the NYDREAM Act, an act that in and of itself is a celebration of immigrants, our young people, and the promise of opportunity. As NY State fulfills this promise, it must also deliver the promise made to all immigrant New Yorkers: that today, tomorrow, and for generations to come, New York State will continue to be a haven, a home, and a place for opportunity for those that live here. CPC is proud to stand alongside the New York Immigration Coalition as we call for a fair and accurate count in Census 2020, #DriversLicensesNOW, and an increase in the Adult Literacy and Legal Services that empower and advance immigrant communities," said Amy Torres, Director of Policy and Advocacy, Chinese-American Planning Council and member of NY Counts 2020.

“We're happy the dream act will be passed but what we need are drivers licenses. And we’re not going to stop fighting for this unless we win and we expect legislators to do it this year,” said Carlos Cardona, Vice President of Alianza Agricola.

"Limited legal services has a grave effect on families, and does nothing to prevent family separations that are continuing at an alarming rate. We need funds to get good and we need compassionate lawyers to defend our community members,” said Kayla Kelashian, member of the Workers Center of Central NY.


Lobbying focused on the Blueprint for Immigrant New York – a broad, comprehensive policy agenda to ensure the success of immigrant communities in New York over the next decade. In the face of federal threats to immigrant communities, the Blueprint highlights the important role New York State must play in key areas including healthcare, education, justice reform, and economic opportunity. Top priorities from the Blueprint for this legislative and budget season include expanding access to driver's licenses for undocumented New Yorkers, state funding for Census 2020 outreach, and expanding the Liberty Defense Project Fund.

Budget goals include:

  • $40 million to fund local Census outreach

  • $20 million for the Liberty Defense Project Funding

  • $532 million to create a state-funded Essential Plan for all New Yorkers up to 200% of the federal poverty level, regardless of immigration status.

  • $15.3 million for Adult Literacy Education funding