On June 15th of this year, President Obama, in an historic act of compassion and social justice, announced the "Deferred Action" immigration program.
On Wednesday of this week - August 15th - the Department of Homeland Security will begin accepting applications from young immigrant men and women who are qualified for deferred action.
It is a profoundly humane policy for hundreds of thousands of young people who know no other home than the United States and who live in perpetual fear of deportation.
With the implementation of this policy, it is critical that we get information out to our immigrant communities, so that people will know who is eligible for deferred action and so that they can avoid being scammed.
Earlier this year, the Assembly Majority succeeded in adding $450,000 to the final, enacted state budget to fund pilot programs intended to help young, immigrant New Yorkers and their families overcome the barriers to education, employment and economic empowerment.
We challenged three organizations to develop programs to address the unique challenges facing young immigrants today. These organizations have risen to the challenge and we are pleased to announce the following awards.
A grant of $150,000 is awarded to the New York State Immigrant Action Fund and the New York Immigration Coalition who are working in partnership to create the New York State DREAM Legal Services Network.
This project will bring together community-based organizations, immigrant legal services groups and law firms to aid DREAMers in applying for deferred action, to improve the delivery of immigrant services, and to improve coordination within this network of agencies.
We congratulate May Chen, President of the New York State Immigrant Action Fund and Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition on these awards. We will hear from both of these leaders, shortly.
We are delighted to announce that a $150,000 grant is also being awarded to Make the Road New York.
Funding will be used to hire a "youth immigration attorney" and a paralegal to assist applicants for deferred action. Make the Road New York also plans to hold a number of full-service clinics that will provide initial screening as well as help with applications, compiling supporting documents, and preparing fee exemption requests.
We congratulate Co-Executive Director Ana Maria Archila and Legal Director Lorelei Salas, who are here with us today.
In a few minutes you will be hearing from Katherine Tavares, a young person who is actively working on the DREAM initiative.
We are delighted to announce that Legal Services NYC will also be receiving a $150,000 grant.
The funding will support "Community College CONNECT," an innovative, citywide project to support the City's low-income, community college students through legal advice, advocacy and community education.
Beginning this Fall, LS-NYC will present a series of legal education clinics at Hostos and LaGuardia Community Colleges, including an "immigrant rights" clinic that will address deferred action, DREAM scams, and paths to citizenship.
Raun J. Rasmussen, Executive Director of Legal Services NYC, is here with us and will be speaking to you in a few moments. Raun, we congratulate you and your organization on this award.
Before I turn the microphone over to our award winners, let me take this opportunity to commend my Assembly Majority colleagues for their many years of steadfast leadership in support of New York's immigrant communities.
For as long as I have been Speaker, the Assembly Majority has been working tirelessly and fighting passionately to address the varied needs of our immigrant communities, to elevate their quality of life, and to smooth their transition to our American culture.
Most recently, on May 1st of this year, the Assembly passed legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Francisco Moya, establishing "The Dream Fund."
Under our legislation, immigrants would be able to advance their educational goals and opportunities through privately funded scholarships and expanded access to family tuition accounts. Our bill is bottled up in the State Senate, so we urge all of our immigrant advocates to contact your state senators and demand that they pass our Dream Fund legislation.
We are, after all, an immigrant state in an immigrant nation. What we are proposing with our legislation and our grants is to give today's immigrant youth the same opportunity to work hard, to achieve, to succeed and to prosper that our immigrant forebears had.
As New Yorkers and as Americans, we choose opportunity for all.