Amid the backdrop of a pitched battle over immigration on the national level, Assembly Democrats on Monday once again pushed for the passage of the Dream Act, a state-level bill that provides tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants.
"Denying these students aid is denying them education," said Manhattan Democrat Carmen De La Rosa. "I've been lucky enough to know the Dreamers, to call them my friends, my neighbors and even my interns."
It's the eighth time the Assembly has passed a version of the bill, which also has the backing of Governor Andrew Cuomo and comes as federal lawmakers debate how to handle the millions of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.
"They want to continue their education, they want to be able to contribute to this country and to do nothing for them, to almost ignore their existence, I don't understand how that's helpful," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
Democratic lawmakers said it's on the closely divided state Senate, led by Republicans, to get the bill over the finish line.
"Time and again, the Assembly does the right thing, and the people in the other house stay silent," said Assemblywoman Deborah Glick of Manhattan.
The Senate's politics are complicated right now, but Democrats could end up in control before the end of session, pending the outcome of two special elections.
For their part, Republicans have campaigned against the legislation over the years, saying a state with limited resources should help those who come to the country through legal channels first.
"My mother and father in law were immigrants here directly from Ireland back in 1966," said Sen. Terrence Murphy. "So if you want to come here to America, come here the right way."
A Senate Republican spokesman, in a statement, said the GOP conference remains opposed to the bill, calling it unfair to middle-class families who save for college tuition.