The state Senate on Monday rejected a controversial bill that would allow immigrants in the country illegally to access state financial aid for college.
And quickly Democrats and Republicans knocked each other for the bill’s failure. Thirty senators voted in favor of the bill — two votes shy of passage. Twenty-nine voted against the bill, including all 28 Senate Republicans who were present and Sen. Ted O’Brien, D-Irondequoit, Monroe County.
The Dream Act would make state-level financial aid for college available to immigrants in the country illegally, while setting up a commission that would raise funds and distribute scholarships to those who meet in-state tuition requirements.
The bill had the support from many Senate Democrats and the five-member Independent Democratic Conference, including Klein and Sen. David Carlucci, D-Clarkstown, Rockland County.
O’Brien and Sen. Simcha Felder, D-Brooklyn, were the only Democrats to vote against the bill, although Felder sits with Republicans. Two senators were absent for the vote, and two seats are vacant in the 63-seat chamber.
O’Brien, a freshman senator in one of the battleground districts in the Senate, said his constituents in the Rochester area voiced opposition to him about the measure. He was the only member of the Senate Democratic Conference to vote no; he’s up for re-election in November.
“At the end of the day, my responsibility is the voters of my district, even more so than to my conference,” O’Brien told Gannett’s Albany Bureau after the vote. “At a time when higher education funding is so hard to come by for so many people, this was just not an appropriate expenditure of taxpayer money.”
Skelos has been opposed to the measure. He has said there may be support among Senate Republicans for creating a privately funded DREAM Fund, but not allowing undocumented immigrants to collect state-funded tuition assistance.
But Skelos and Klein said they agreed to hold the vote, and they put the blame on Democrats for not having enough votes to pass it.
“This was a priority for the IDC that it come to a vote, and I consented to it,” Skelos said.
Democrats blamed Republicans for not having one vote in favor of the Dream Act.
“Here we had an opportunity where this failed by two votes,” said Sen. Jose Peralta, D-Queens. “Individuals have immigrants in their district where they could have stood up and done the right thing, but they didn’t.”
Peralta didn’t criticize O’Brien.
“Ted is a great colleague. Even with Ted O’Brien’s vote, it would have put us at 31. We need 32,” Peralta said. “So the bottom line is we did not get one single Republican vote, and that’s something they are going to have to live with.”