By Paula Katinas
SUNSET PARK — The college student who stood up to address Community Board Seven impressed members with her poise, intelligence, and courage.
The student, who spoke at the board’s Feb. 15 meeting, admitted that she is an immigrant in the U.S. illegally.
“I am an undocumented student,” the young woman told board members. “I came here at the age of three from Mexico.”’
The student explained that her parents entered the U.S. illegally and brought her with them.
“I have a B.A., but I can’t do anything with it,” she said.
The young woman was invited to the board meeting by Deborah Roman, chairman of Board Seven’s Youth Services Committee, to talk about the New York State Dream Act, proposed legislation in the state Legislature aimed at helping undocumented immigrant students.
Under the New York DREAM Act, undocumented immigrants would be eligible for in-state tuitions at state colleges and universities. The students would also be allowed to receive scholarships.
“It would allow undocumented students access to scholarships,” said the young woman. “Right now, it’s frustrating.”
The bill is based on a proposed piece of federal legislation that was never passed in Congress. The acronym DREAM stands for Development, Relief, Education for Alien Minors.
The DREAM Act is supported by the New York State Youth Leadership Council, an organization composed of undocumented immigrants from all across the state.
The council has been lobbying hard for passage of the DREAM Act.
“The committee wants all elected officials to support the DREAM Act bill,” Roman said.
Students from Sunset Park High School and leaders of the Center for Family Life in Sunset Park attended a recent Youth Services Committee meeting to discuss the proposed legislation, Roman said.
Roman made a motion to have the full board vote to support the bill.
Board members who spoke out were in favor of the bill.
“This is not about giving anyone a handout,” Cesar Zuniga said. “This is about equal access. Period.”
Another member, Randolph Peers, asked if any other community boards had taken a similar vote.
“I think it’s great that we’re the first. Our community leads the way,” he said.
The board voted by unanimous consent to write a letter to all of the area’s elected officials stating the board’s support for the DREAM Act.
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Bill Perkins and Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, was introduced on March 22, 2011.
The New York State DREAM Act is supported by a large coalition of immigrants’ rights groups, as well as the New York Board of Regents, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gilibrand, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and officials at both the City University of New York and the State University of New York, according to the New York Youth Leadership Council’s website, www.nysylc.org.
“At the core of this bill is an affirmation of justice, compassion, and belief that all human beings deserve the right to realize their full potential,” a statement on the website reads.