NYS Assembly
Legislative Task Force
on New Americans
Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat, Chair
Speaker Sheldon Silver

NYS Seal

2002 Annual Report
"Access To Higher Education For All"

New York State Assembly

Legislative Task Force on New Americans

NYS Seal

2002 Annual Report

"Access to Higher Education for All"
Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat, Chair
Speaker Sheldon Silver

A Message from Adriano Espaillat

Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat

A recent editorial in a local newspaper stated that the American "melting pot isn’t working anymore" because this country’s traditional European immigrants have been replaced by Third World immigrants. It further stated that our immigration policy has been out of control since the passage of immigration reform laws in 1962 that altered the "ethnic mix of this country." Unfortunately, in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, a growing number of Americans seem to agree with this view.

As chair of the Assembly’s Task Force on New Americans, I can assure you that these assumptions are wrong. Our country has thrived for the last 200 years due in great part to the constant influx of immigrants from all parts of the world, including Third World countries. The social, cultural and economic contributions of Polish, Irish, Russian or Italian immigrants are not more or less relevant than those from Mexican, Bangladeshi, Indian or Filipino immigrants. Every day, I see many of these new Americans working very hard as doctors, taxi drivers, cashiers, lawyers, pharmacists, nurses, gas station attendants, laborers and legislators like any other member of society. These immigrants are pursuing the American dream. They are proud of their contributions, and we should all be grateful for the benefits we receive from their hard work.

What is "broken" with immigration today is not the nationality of the immigrants, it is the growing insensitivity toward newcomers. It is the mushrooming of hate groups who seek to blame immigrants for the problems that ail society. It is the laws that continue to deny these immigrants access to health care, a good education, and in some cases legal status. Closing the door to immigration is not the answer. Scaring people into thinking that these immigrants are undeserving of the American dream is not the answer. Trying to find solutions to help those in need, whether they are recent immigrants or third generation, is what we need to be doing now to prepare for the future. The Task Force on New Americans will continue to work for all New Yorkers to achieve these goals.

Law Restores Immigrants’ Tuition Cost

Bill No. A9612-A, sponsored by Task Force Chair Adriano Espaillat, was signed into law on August 6, 2002 restoring residential education status to thousands of undocumented immigrants at state and New York city colleges. Shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, CUNY revised its tuition policy believing that a 1996 federal law (the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act) required it to charge non-citizens the higher out-of-state tuition rate. SUNY institutions had already implemented a similar policy.

The measure was arguably directed at preventing possible terrorists from enrolling at state colleges and universities. However, the practical effect would have been felt mostly by students who were brought to New York as children by their parents, posed no threat to this country, had already taken steps to legalize their status, and were genuinely interested in pursing a higher education. If implemented, the policy would have forced many of these students to drop out of school due to their inability to afford the higher tuition cost. Immigrant advocates filed a lawsuit on behalf of three undocumented CUNY students; however, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of CUNY and upheld the tuition increase.

While still complying with the federal statute, this law makes the lower tuition available to any student who attended a credited New York high school for two years or obtained a general equivalency diploma from an approved state program, regardless of their immigration status.

Similar laws have been passed in Texas and California, both states with large immigrant populations. To be eligible, students also need to apply for college within five years of graduation, and must file an affidavit with the institution they are enrolled at stating that an application to legalize their immigration status has been filed with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

For a copy of this law or additional information please contact Assemblymember Adriano Espaillat at 212-544-2278.

Adriano Espaillat, Task Force Chair, witnesses the signing of Bill No. A9612-A, which exempts certain undocumented immigrant students at CUNY and SUNY from paying out-of-state tuition rates.

First Dominican-American Named to the CUNY Board of Trustees

Dr. Hugo Morales, a prominent psychiatrist and civic leader, has been named to the City University of New York Board of Trustees ("CUNY"). He joined the Board for its June 24th meeting, and will serve until June 2007. CUNY is considered one of the nation’s leading urban public universities.

Assemblymember Espaillat congratulates Dr. Hugh Morales at the inauguration ceremony.
Dr. Morales is the founding medical director of the Bronx Mental Health Center, which provides innovative comprehensive ambulatory mental health care services to low income patients. He is also a member of the Council for Mental Health Planning in the State of New York. His many prestigious honors include the Ellis Medal of Honor in 1996 and the Christopher Columbus Award presented by the President of the Dominican Republic in 1992.

Immigration Day: "Rebuilding New York by Investing in Immigrants"

Immigrants, advocates and legislators once again marched through the halls of the Capitol on "Immigration Day" to bring attention to vital issues that affect new Americans in New York. The annual event, sponsored by the New York Immigration Coalition and co-sponsored by the Task Force, took place on March 20, 2002, and despite the rain, more than 500 community activists were in attendance to address the following issues with their representatives:

  1. Restoration of benefits and services to lawfully residing immigrants in the reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program funds: Assemblymember Adriano Espaillat, introduced Resolution AR2101 urging Congress to restore the benefits.
  2. Access to CUNY for undocumented New York resident: This issue has been successfully resolved with the passage of Bill No. A9612-A/S7784 granting certain undocumented immigrants the right to pay in-state tuition. (Please see separate story).
  3. Promote Immigrant Workers’ Rights: The Task Force is currently looking into ways to enforce immigrants’ right to have fair wages and hours, speedy resolution of Worker’s Compensation claims, and a safe workplace.
  4. Enable immigrants to become licensed drivers: This can be accomplished if the Department of Motor Vehicles accepts a tax identification number in lieu of a social security number and repeals regulations requiring that all immigration documents used for identification purposes show 11 months or more of legal status remaining for the applicant. Assemblymember Felix Ortiz has introduced Bill No. A9603 to address this problem.

Hearing: Problems Facing Immigrant Families in the Child Welfare System

The Task Force on New Americans, in cooperation with the Assembly Standing Committee on Children and Families, sponsored a hearing on July 11, 2002 to examine issues surrounding the placement of immigrant children in foster care and the challenges immigrant parents encounter as they navigate the child welfare system such as language barriers, unfamiliarity with local laws, immigration status and cultural differences.

Twenty-nine witnesses came to the hearing to testify, and their testimony recounted the stories of many immigrant families who have experienced prolonged and unnecessary separation due to the lack of culturally sensitive services and staff, and the limited funding available to provide adequate legal representation to immigrant parents who must appear in Family Court.

"Most immigrant parents come to the U.S. with the goal of providing a better life for their children. However, they are often unaware of mainstream American cultural practices and laws regarding child rearing. As a result, they are often baffled by the child welfare system and family court. They are unsure of what is considered abuse or neglect, how to get help, and what their rights are," said Jessica Lee, Executive Director of the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families.

"The problems and issues that affect immigrant families in the child welfare system cannot be ignored or dismissed as the problems of a select few," said Ilze Earner, Project Director of the Immigrants and Child Welfare Project.

"Child welfare needs to move out of the last century when it comes to dealing with immigrants –when taking children from their poor parents was routinely deemed in the best interest of the child…Policy and program changes can be made at little or no cost that would make the child welfare system more responsible to immigrant families, children and youth. It means the integration into the fabric of American society without leaving them to bear the ugly scars of victimization, abuse and discrimination," Earner added.

  • Reform laws to make larger number of immigrants eligible for benefits and services
  • Improve education and training of front-line case workers regarding benefit eligibility
  • Develop policies mandating the placement of children with qualified relatives regardless of immigration status
  • Ensure families have adequate legal representation by reforming the 18-B system
  • Provide legal assistance in immigration matters for children in foster care
  • Create partnerships between state agencies and community experts in immigration affairs to improve and maximize staff training
  • Increase access to preventive services making removal of children the last resort
  • Support "dual track pilot initiatives" that rely on a family-centered approach, avoid unnecessary involvement with the system and reduce the punitive, adversarial atmosphere
  • Expand the network of immigrant-specific social services agencies
  • Improve knowledge and tolerance of cultural differences in child-rearing while also developing programs to teach immigrants parenting skills which do not run afoul of child welfare laws
  • Aggressively recruit minority foster parents and multilingual/multicultural staff
  • Open immigrant foster care, preventive and adoptive agencies
  • Provide access to high quality interpretation and translation services
  • Offer more English as a Second Language (ESL) classes

The Task Force will continue to work with the Committee on Children and Families and community advocates to seek solutions to this problem.


The following bills and resolutions are pending in the Assembly/Senate, and address issues that are relevant to New Americans in the state of New York:

Bill No. Sponsor Subject Status
A1673A Stringer Provides for impact aid for education services for immigrant student 3/1/02
Ways & Means
McLaughlin Provides state regulation of immigration consultants 4/30/02
Economic Dev.
Rivera Directs Education Dept. to conduct study of English learning programs in elementary and secondary schools 6/26/02
A4035 Rivera Directs the Dept. of Health to contract with community organizations for distribution of information on health care services and benefits available to immigrants 2/5/02
Ways & Means
A7082 Espaillat Requires a court to advise a defendant of deportation consequences of guilty plea 1/9/02
A7094 Espaillat Outlaws discrimination on basis of alien status 1/9/02
Govt. Ops.
A7103 Espaillat Requires orders of protection in native language of petitioner and respondent 1/9/02
A7105 Espaillat Increases compensation of municipal employees who use foreign languages 1/9/02
Govt. Employees
A7107 Espaillat Waives citizenship requirements for midwives 1/9/02
Higher Education
A7701 Rivera Establishes a waiver from passing the English language arts Regents exam 1/9/02
Higher Education
Perry Eligibility of aliens for medical assistance
(Family Health Care Plus)
Ways & Means
A7909A Gottfried Family Medical Assistance 6/10/02
Passed Assembly Referred to Senate
A9603 Ortiz Allows the use of the individual tax identification number when a legal immigrant applies for a driver’s license or a renewal of a driver’s license 1/11/02
A10448 Espaillat Requires hospitals to provide language interpreters 3/18/02
A10510 Espaillat Establishes a memorial award for children and spouses of those deceased as a result of American Airlines flight 587 3/20/02
Higher Education
AR2101 Espaillat Resolution urging the President and Congress to restore benefits and services to lawfully-residing immigrants in the reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program funds 3/14/02
Social Services

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