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Some Hispanic Assembly Members May Oppose State Budget To Demand DREAM Act

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TWC News: Some Hispanic Assembly Members May Oppose State Budget To Demand DREAM Act
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Some members of the state Assembly's Latino caucus may vote against passing the state budget because the bill does not include the New York DREAM Act, a measure that would provide financial aid to students who are in the country illegally.

The Hispanic lawmakers had hoped to include the DREAM Act in the state budget, but no funding was set aside for the bill.

Those legislators said the vote would send a message to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, state Senate conference leaders Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein and Governor Andrew Cuomo that the DREAM Act should be a top Albany priority.

This comes a day after the state Senate passed the proposed $135 billion spending plan, and four days before the state budget deadline.

On Thursday, a group of Hispanic assembly members had a heated argument in the hallways of the state capitol.

Assemblyman Marcos Crespo of the Bronx said he will vote against passing the budget, but other members said that is not the right approach.

"We have to deliver this for the community," Crespo said. "We can't talk about economic development while we're leaving out the intellectual capital of thousands of students, who are graduating from our public schools, who have the potential to be the leaders of tomorrow."

According to Crespo, Cuomo has failed to prioritize the DREAM Act.

"We need to take a position that our community can't continue to just wait for others to come around," Crespo said. "I think we have a responsibility. We have been talking about this issue all year round, and we have a responsibility to deliver on that and make a statement."

The same budget bill that would have contained the DREAM Act also includes a gradual minimum wage increase that would have the hourly rate reach $9 by 2016, and some assembly members say not passing that measure could endanger their communities.

"There's discontent. The number-one priority for the Latino community has been the DREAM Act. We continue to fight for it," said Queens Assemblyman Francisco Moya, who sponsored the measure. "But I believe that we have to look at every possible option to make sure and ensure that the governor, Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein come out and take a position on the DREAM Act."

Several sources tell NY1 that in a meeting with the governor's top staff, members of the Latino caucus said that if the governor fails to support the DREAM Act, he will have a "Latino problem."

The Latino caucus was hoping to stay united on the issue.

"We definitely want to stay together. We see the repercussions of voting no and what it would entail for our community. So definitely, we're looking at a sensible solution to do this," said Bronx Assemblyman Nelson Castro.

Cuomo's office pointed out that his favorability rating among Latinos is high, roughly 70 percent.

Members of the caucus say they were given assurances by the governor's people that they will work hard to get the DREAM Act passed by the end of the session in June.

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