For now, state tuition assistance in New York will not be provided to students in the country illegally. The 30-29 vote in the Republican-controlled Senate failed to reach the 32 votes needed to pass.
Advocates for the illegal immigrant community have been working behind the scenes for a very long time to get the Senate to pass the measure, and weren’t expecting it to be introduced as soon as it was. Republicans abruptly brought the bill to the floor late in the day Monday—a move supporters of the measure said was intentional.
"It certainly seems that it was bought up to fail, given the outcome," Sen. Michael Gianaris (D) said, reports Fox News, adding that the vote “made a mockery of a very important issue."
The proposal includes a budget appropriation of $25 million to open up Tuition Assistance Program money for students who are in the country illegally but attend public or private colleges, paying up to $5,000 a year for undergraduates at four-year institutions.
Exactly how many would be eligible for the need-based assistance is unclear, but according to a report issued by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, 8,300 such students in the CUNY and SUNY systems would qualify.
Since it was first introduced three years ago, opponents have argued that using taxpayer money to fund tuition assistance for people in the country illegally takes opportunity and funds away from students who are citizens. New York is among 16 states that already allow those students to pay in-state tuition at public colleges.
The Assembly passed the Dream Act last month. After the vote, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has indicated support for the bill, released a statement saying he was disappointed that the Senate had failed to pass the measure.
Opponents said the bill amounted to an improper use of taxpayer funds.
"I simply cannot justify spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars annually to pay for tuition for illegal immigrants when so many law-abiding families are struggling to meet the ever-increasing costs of higher education for their own children," said Sen. Mark Grisanti, a Republican from the Buffalo area, Fox News reports.