Historically, New York has been a mecca of immigration, with countless stories of the Statue of Liberty being the first thing that the denizens of established Irish and Jewish neighborhoods arriving in New York City saw after suffering in steerage class across continents. New York was that destination that proceeded all other cities and states in every language as that special place to dream of, where immigrants of every stripe are welcomed.
Unfortunately, the reality is less dazzling. Governor Cuomo has yet to support or sign the New York DREAM Act, a bill that would grant undocumented students who meet in-state requirements access to state financial aid.
There is word that this is because he is eyeing a presidential run in 2016; however, not signing the DREAM legislation would cost him more votes than it would save. Indeed, Congress and the White House has miserably failed to tackle on immigration reform. And Governor Cuomo has an opportunity to demonstrate firm leadership to the entire nation that New York will once again lead in welcoming immigrants to ensure a robust economy for the state.
But silence in policy leadership or opposition to the NY DREAM legislation must not be praised as a trait of a potential 2016 presidential candidate.
With Obama's deportation rate far exceeding that of Bush, scores of Latino voters would have jumped on anyone willing to let their family stay. When GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney promised to veto the DREAM Act, something which is favored by over 90% of Latinos according to a recent Univision poll that has essentially become a bellwether for the Latino vote, he sealed his fate. This is because the DREAM Act is seen as the first modest step towards a practical immigration policy that works for both sides of the debate, allowing in only the most deserving immigrant population who have gone on to higher education or served in the military.
Latino voters are desperate for reform and Romney had a golden opportunity, which he blew when he didn't appeal to the disillusioned Latino vote -- a move which Governor Cuomo is moving toward himself.
By staying silent on the New York DREAM Act, Cuomo is failing to embrace NY's tradition of welcoming immigrants. Indeed, this position places NY to the right of other states, such as Texas, that have already passed measures to give undocumented immigrants tuition assistance. With the rest of the nation leaning towards the DREAM Act, and a valuable voter bloc that's quickly growing, up for grabs and discontent, one would think any political calculations would push him towards signing NY DREAM Act. Governor Cuomo demonstrated keen political leadership in the marriage equality battle. The voters of 2016 are watching this week and expect nothing less than his full commitment on DREAM.
Follow Cesar Vargas on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@DRMAction