The DREAM Act, which would have allowed college students in the country illegally to get state financial aid, was voted down in the state Senate Monday. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
When the state Senate voted, it was close. Thirty-two votes were needed for passage, but supporters only had 30. Twenty-nine senators voted against.
"This failed by two votes," said state Senator Jose Peralta of Queens. "We had an opportunity. Individuals have immigrants in their district where they could have stood up and they could have done the right thing, but they didn't. They didn't do the right thing."
The DREAM Act passed the Assembly earlier this year, but its chances in the Senate were uncertain. Slowly, advocates had been building support in the upper house, flipping the "no" votes to "yes" by applying pressure to key senators.
It was somewhat of a surprise, then, when NY1 first reported Monday evening that a vote was imminent. Supporters had wanted more time to make sure all the votes needed for passage were there.
"It's without question that I'm more than disappointed," said Assemblyman Francisco Moya of Queens. "I think it's a gutless move on the part of Senate leadership."
Senator Jeff Klein of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference controls what bills come to the Senate floor in a power-sharing arrangement with Republicans.
"Again, I made a promise that I was going to bring this very important piece of legislation to the floor, and we did that," Klein said. "I'm disappointed with the outcome, but at the same time, I think it's important that we actually have a vote."
Mainline Democrats blame Klein for the bill's failure.
"Well unfortunately, Senator Klein has shown himself to be the Republicans' chief enabler in the state Senate," said state Senator Michael Gianaris of Queens. "To sit here on a bill where every single yes vote was provided by Democrats, and Republicans provided zero, and to try and blame, ostensibly, his own party for it is a travesty."
In a statement, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, "I will continue to work with supporters, stakeholders and members of the legislature to achieve this dream and build the support to pass this legislation and preserve New York's legacy as a progressive leader."
Two Republican senators who were reportedly on the fence about whether to vote for the bill were not in the chamber for the vote, and even a vacant seat left by Eric Adams, who left to become Brooklyn borough president, is being blamed. Only Cuomo can call a special election to fill the seat.
Students directly affected by the failure of the DREAM Act said that they're going to hold every state senator accountable for their vote.
"We're criminalized, and we have to sort of hold this cross over us saying, 'Oh, you're not worthy,' which is really what I feel the senate said today, that we're not worthy of a higher education because we are what they call as 'illegals,' and it's really heartbreaking," said volunteer Luba Cortes.
"Even some of the people who come here, sometimes they drop out of high school because they don't have the hope at the end of the tunnel knowing that they will be getting financial aid," said community organizer Antonio Alcaron.
"We'll keep on fighting with the DREAM Act. This will pass," said volunteer Mayra Chavez. "This is a huge bill that could help the economy of New York, and we're not doing anything wrong but wanting to go to school."
The students said that they're going to protest at the offices of several state senators who voted against the bill.