Staten Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Supports New York Dream Act; Lauds Titone, Gulino; Questions Malliotakis' Superstorm Sandy Comments

Staten Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce supports NY DREAM Act and question Superstorm Sandy comments made by local elected officials.

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The Staten Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce represents the business interests of its constiutent members.

We see no rational relationship between the DREAM Act, which provides tuition assistance for a more skilled workforce in our community, and the relief efforts and assistance provided to Hurricane Sandy victims. Any purported link is severely misplaced.

Staten Island, New York (PRWEB) February 27, 2013

In response to inquiries made by its constituents about the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) proposed by Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Queens) and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) in the State Legislature, the Staten Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (SIHCC) has taken a position endorsing the legislation and lauding New York State Assemblyman Matthew J. Titone and Richmond County Democratic Party Leader John P. Gulino's efforts in clarifying confusion surrounding the legislation.

The DREAM Act would allow children of illegal immigrants to apply for state financial aid and would create the DREAM Fund, which would provide private scholarships to undocumented immigrants and children of undocumented immigrants. California, Texas and New Mexico already have similar laws on their books, offering financial aid to immigrant children regardless of Federal immigration status.

There has been some confusion over the DREAM Act. in Staten Island, with many believing that tuition assitance dollars would be diverted from the state's response to Sandy. Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis publicly said it was wrong for the Assembly to introduce DREAM Act legislation, including the tuition provision, while thousands of Sandy victims were still trying to rebuild their lives. "To focus time, energy and most importantly tax dollars on tuition aid for illegal aliens at a time when lifelong Americans are fighting to put their lives back together is unconscionable and frankly offensive," Malliotakis said.

While the SIHCC has worked with the Assemblywoman in the past on a range of issues, most notably in the successful repeal of the MTA Payroll Tax, the SIHCC deviated drastically with Malliotakis is a recently issued Position Letter. "The Chamber must take the position that the Assemblywoman’s statements have caused confusion as to the DREAM Act, by inappropriately connecting it to Hurricane Sandy Victims. We see no rational relationship between the DREAM Act, which provides tuition assistance to create a more skilled workforce in our community, and the relief efforts and State assistance provided to Hurricane Sandy victims" the letter stated.

Moreover, the SIHCC believes that the position articulated by the Assemblywoman (herself the daughter of Greek and Cuban immigrants) is a stark departure from some of the core values expressed by the local Republican Party, who had been courting the votes of the local Hispanic community. In a September 20, 2010 article in the Staten Island Advance, Republican Leader Robert J. Scamardella said: "This country has been built on the backs of immigrants. Frankly, the Mexican laborers that populate our Island are mirror images of my Italian ancestors who did the same labor 60 years ago."

The SIHCC were quick to point to two local political leaders who had helped to clarify Malliotakis' misleading statements: "The greatest courage with respect to the DREAM Act has been displayed by Democratic Party Chairman John P. Gulino and Assemblyman Matthew J. Titone, both of whom have exposed the Assemblywoman’s statements as, at their best, misplaced, and at their worst, are a transparent attempt at political race baiting" the Position Letter stated.

The SIHCC further reiterated that it embraces the position articulated in the Presidential Executive Order issued on June 15, 2012, that certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, who do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria should be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Under that directive Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to apply for work authorization. The SIHCC also embraced New York State action bringing the state in line with California, New Mexico and Texas, "all of whom have made the conscious effort to invest in education for future business leaders."

The SIHCC cited statistics from the Center for American Progress for the proposition that the DREAM Act is positive for the business community. "The DREAM Act will bring in more money than it would cost. The Center for American Progress concluded that the President Obama’s Immigration Directive would bring billions of dollars to struggling state economies. If illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children were given legal status, their improved access to college and better jobs would add $329 billion and 1.4 million jobs to the nation's economy over two decades...up to 223,000 of the 2.1 million young illegal immigrants eligible for the DREAM Act would have an easier time enrolling, paying for and finishing college, which would lead to the increased economic gains. These savings are in addition to the savings from no longer kicking down doors to deport college students and place American-born children into foster care....access to financial aid, which is essentially access to education for anyone without a trust fund in today’s America, is a central part of the DREAM Act" the Position letter said.

The SIHCC was clear that their support for the DREAM Act bears most directly upon a fundamental issue of competition and market efficiency. "America must out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world, positioning American business to thrive in a 21st century economy. To win the global competition for new jobs and industries, the United States must continue to have the best trained and most skilled workforce. In an increasingly global economy, highly skilled workers will be best positioned to secure high-wage jobs and fuel American prosperity. Education is the key driver, and the Chamber recognizes that legislation like the DREAM Act is central to our shared American task" the Position Letter stated.

The SIHCC has organized with other local Staten Island business leaders in the Liberian, Pakastani, Egyptian, Sri Lankan and Korean communities, as well as El Centro director Gonzalo Mercado, Brooklyn Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Rick Miranda and Federation of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce President Alfred Placeres on this issue. The Chamber called for all to formally applaud the actions of Assemblyman Matthew J. Titone and Democratic Party Chairman John P. Gulino in advancing the business interests of SIHCC constituents and the community.

Additionally, the SIHCC asked Staten Island elected officials to consider their economic policy position when considering the DREAM Act and /or similar legislation.