NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says that the state should its own DREAM Act to help undocumented immigrants go to college.

The Speaker called in and spoke with WCBS 880’s Steve Scott about the proposal for the Eye on Politics segment Thursday.

DREAM stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors.

What would would a New York State DREAM Act do?

“Well, it would give young immigrants access to a broad range of state educational opportunity programs such as tuition assistance, higher education opportunity programs, collegiate science and technology entry programs, and opportunity programs that are available at community colleges,” Silver told Scott. “It also allows immigrant families to take advantage of the New York State college tuition savings programs, which makes it easier to save money and pay for their children’s educational dreams.”

He said “New York would be leader in the nation.”

He did note that it would not be the first in either of those programs. He said 12 states, including New York, have in-state tuition for immigrant youth at their city and state universities.

“We’ve allowed immigrant youth to receive in-state tuition since 2002. California and Illinois have the savings programs and several states have the opportunity programs – California, New Mexico among them,” he said.

Congress has been looking at the issue. Why does New York need its own DREAM Act?

“Because we have led the nation. We continue to lead the nation and we will give impetus to Congress to act. We recognize the value of a vibrant immigrant population in New York and that’s why we want this to happen. We’ll make an investment here in New York until things happen in Washington,” Silver said.

“There are naysayers who would say that a New York DREAM Act would, as they might put it, condone illegal activity, put undocumented immigrants against citizens for college slots. You’re response to that,” inquired Scott.

“This is not about that. This is about children who, through no fault of there own, are in this country. They know no other country. They’ve come here, many of them, when they’re 2 and 3-years-old. They have been given a new status by President Obama just recently. They will likely be here for the rest of their lives. We are investing in making them productive citizens of New York. There is plenty of room for everybody. We have traditionally been the melting pot. That’s what New York has been known as,” replied Silver.

Silver was asked if he’s talked about the plan with Senate Leader Dean Skelos or Gov. Andrew Cuomo and what chance it has to move forward.

“Well, the Senate is now talking about one of the things we introduced last year, which was a DREAM fund and Sen. Klein, who is now Sen. Skelos’s partner, has talked about a DREAM Act,” said Silver.

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