By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis has come under heavy criticism from a group of Hispanic state lawmakers for remarks she made when talking about her opposition to the DREAM Act, a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to get a break on college tuition costs.
Members of the New York State Assembly/ Senate Puerto Rican/ Hispanic Task Force called the remarks made by Malliotakis (R-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) “disappointing.”
Malliotakis recently blasted the Assembly Majority for renewing its push for tuition assistance and scholarship programs for illegal aliens, saying that it was wrong to place an emphasis on that kind of help while families on Staten Island and in parts of Brooklyn are still struggling to put their lives back together in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
“In our community, people have lost their homes, their property, their life’s work and even their family members. These people have suffered through unfathomable adversity, and they are the ones who deserve our assistance and attention. To focus time, energy and most importantly tax dollars on tuition aid for illegal aliens at a time when lifelong Americans are fighting to put their lives back together is unconscionable and frankly offensive,” Malliotkais said.
“We are disappointed at assembly member Malliotakis’ insensitive remark regarding the DREAM Act that would help immigrant students. In addition to being economically disadvantaged, the majority of these students have also been affected by the devastation of Hurricane Sandy,” read a statement issued by the task force.
The task force is composed of 43 members of the assembly and state senate interested in moving forward an agenda to assist Hispanic residents of the state. The task force also seeks to bring to light episodes of discrimination so that they can be scrutinized.
Assembly Felix Ortiz (D-Sunset Park), chairman of the task force, said it is possible to both help hurricane victims and assist immigrants with college costs. “We will continue to assist our fellow New Yorkers who are still in need of home repairs and other necessities to survive and rebuild but we are not going to attain that by taking away from the students who need financial assistance for their education,” he said.
“To create a competition between these issues with the children, who are striving to be productive role models with storm affected children and families is very disappointing,” Ortiz said.
“The New York DREAM Act is not just a bill; it is an opportunity for hard-working students to complete their studies and should not be compared to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy that has affected many families. We will continue to strive to assist them,” the task force’s statement read.
Malliotakis defended her remarks, saying that it is her firm belief that the scarce resources of the state should not be used to assist people who are here illegally. “We have to set priorities,” she told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
Malliotakis, who is the daughter of immigrants (her mother is Cuban-American; her father was born in Greece), called the task force’s support of the DREAM Act misguided. “So many parents are struggling to put their children through college. I don’t think it’s fair to take resources away from them to assist illegal immigrants,” she said.
As for comparing assistance to Hurricane Sandy victims to providing financial assistance to illegal immigrants, Malliotakis said, “I was opposed to this legislation last year,” she said.
“I’m talking strictly about illegal immigrants,” she added.
“My parents are immigrants. I understand the aspirations of the American Dream,” Malliotakis said.