New York State's "Dream Act" for "Children": Bait & Switch

By Stanley Renshon and Stanley Renshon on March 20, 2012

New York State Democrats' latest effort to enact a limited version of the Dream Act deals only with making "financial aid available to illegal immigrants at colleges and universities." Such students are already able to pay tuition and fees at in-state rates at New York States' public universities.

Like most other efforts at the state and national level to enact some version of the Dream Act, Democratic legislators present these efforts as narrowly tailored and necessary efforts to redress a wrong perpetrated against innocent victims who were infants or young children when they were brought here.

There is a kernel of truth in their claims, but it is all but smothered under a thick layer of misrepresentation and misdirection.

The New York Times reports that, "Two versions of the Dream Act have been proposed in the State Legislature. One would allow illegal immigrants who graduated from a high school in the state to get a piece of the roughly $900 million in the state's Tuition Assistance Program. The other bill would create a private fund that the students could tap for aid; donors would get tax credits for contributing to the fund."

The "private" funding of tuition bills for illegal immigrants parallels recent efforts elsewhere. In Silicon Valley a group of technology leaders have begun making substantial donations to Educators for Fair Consideration, or E4FC, a nonprofit that gives scholarships, career advice, and legal services to students brought to the United States illegally as children.

I put "private" funding in quotes to emphasize that although these are private donations, they are in fact publicly subsidized though the tax code. The same is true for one of the two approaches contained in the New York State bill. In that bill, "donors would get tax credits for contributing to the fund." It's likely that the sponsors of the two approaches in the legislature prefer the "private" funding option because it helps create the illusion that no public expenditures are involved, which of course they are.

There is however, a larger problem for these students, which is that they are barred from legal employment because of their immigration status. The Silicon Valley group approaches this issue by "trying to connect students with businesses to secure internships that might lead to an employer-sponsored visa."

The New York State legislative proposals take a different track. In one version of the bill, it simply mandates that illegal immigrants will be able to work in New York State.

That version also provided for illegal immigrants covered by the act to get New York State driver's licenses, a provision that was also removed in a subsequent version. Those were not the only provisions that changed over time.

Recall from my previous blog that a New York Times editorial made what has become a pro forma claim for various versions of the Dream Act: "Its goal is to help ambitious youths who were brought here as children and are American in all but the paperwork." And what does the bill actually say about these youths brought here as children?

Well, it says they need not have been brought here as children!

Yes, that's right, you read correctly. Those covered by the legislation need not have been brought to the United States as children. How is that possible?

Easy. In one version of the legislation, persons who entered the country before they turned 16 and lived in New York for two years were covered. A subsequent version raised the age to 18.

So, the proposed law not only covers those who were illegally brought to the United States as infants and very young children, the group that provides the poster stories that adorn advocates' efforts. The law would also cover those who arrived here yesterday, so long as their 18th birthday is next week.

This is not quite the "American in all but the paperwork" group that advocates tout.

Worse, the bill as written would cover newly arrived almost-18-year-old illegal immigrants next year, the year after and the year after that — indeed into perpetuity or repeal — whichever comes first.

Next: New York State's Dream Act: An Ongoing Incentive for More Illegal Immigration