Testimony on Resolution 1484

Good Afternoon. My name is Fryda and I am the Director of Immigration and Civic Engagement of the Hispanic Federation. Chair Menchaca and committee members, thank you for the opportunity to testify on behalf of the Federation and the more than 60 Latino-led community based organizations we represent in New York.

I would like to thank the NYC Council’s Committee on Immigration for bringing us together today and affording our community of immigrant and Latino advocates the opportunity to express our need for the passage New York State DREAM Act and the Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy (BRIDGE) Act of 2017. We commend the Committee for passing this timely resolution in favor of the DREAM and BRIDGE bills.

As a leader in the Latino community, Hispanic Federation calls on the NYS legislature to pass the DREAM Act to ensure that DREAM students have fair and equal access to higher education. We also call on Congress to pass the BRIDGE Act, which would grant legal relief to DACA recipients and other DREAMers, offering provisional protected presence and the opportunity for sustained contribution to the American workforce.

For more than fifteen years now, the Federation has been working on advocating for the passage of humane and fair immigration reform in our nation’s capital. This year, we have witnessed a rise in political initiatives intended to disrupt immigrant lives. The Trump administration has taken a firm stance against DAPA, striking down any hopes that the successful DACA program will expand during his presidency. There is no time better than now to pass legislation that would secure the future for our nation’s DREAMers. Passing the DREAM bill and the BRIDGE Act would make a significant difference in the lives of over 2 million DREAMers in this country.

The proposed DREAM bill offers Governor Cuomo the chance to not only stand up for immigrant rights, but to demonstrate this populations’ value to the rest of New York’s economic, cultural, and social wellbeing. Most of our DREAMers were brought to the United States as young children, and as such, were educated in our public schools, developed ties to their local communities, and above all – consider themselves American. To deny this already vulnerable population the equal access to education would be to contradict our values and stymie economic development.

The proposed BRIDGE bill would have an even more profound impact on the lives of DREAMers than the current DACA Executive Action, which has already transformed the lives of thousands of people - increasing their income and educational opportunities, reducing unemployment rates, and boosting the nation’s labor market. The BRIDGE act would extend protections to members of our society who pose no threat to public safety and that have made significant contributions to the US economy. The over 2 million undocumented youth that could be eligible for BRIDGE program deserve to live their lives free of fear and free of unnecessary barriers to education and employment.

Undocumented immigrants in New York and beyond represent a wealth of untapped potential and talent that, under current policy, threatens to be wasted. Most notably, our undocumented youth – seeking an education that would allow them to become the state’s next leading doctors, lawyers, and community leaders – are not only deserving of our support, but eager to prove and contribute their value to the state they call home. DREAMers should have the opportunity to both afford higher education and work legally in their desired profession.

Looking to improve not just the lives of immigrants, but our community as a whole, we can demonstrate to the rest of our nation that the success of future generations – comprised of both immigrants and native New Yorkers alike – is a valuable resource worth our financial investment and moral support.

Study after study has affirmed that per capita income and college attainment rates are closely correlated. A worker in New York holding a bachelor’s degree earns an average of $25,000 more per year than their counterparts who only have a high school diploma and therefore contribute an additional $3,900 each year in taxes to local and federal governments. It is clear that by investing in our youth, New York can continue to position itself as one of the largest economies in the world while reaping the benefits of increased economic productivity and increased tax revenues.

Let's give DREAMERS the opportunity that other generations of immigrants have been granted: to work hard, achieve and fully contribute to our society. In doing so, we will be answering affirmatively how we view immigrants as integral to New York’s future success.

Thank you.