Press Release

AALDEF Testifies In Favor of the New York State DREAM Act


My name is Bethany Li and I am an attorney at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF). Founded in 1974, AALDEF is a national civil rights organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. AALDEF focuses on many issues affecting Asian Americans, including immigrant rights, civic participation and voting rights, economic justice for workers, language access, Census policy, affirmative action, youth rights and educational equity, housing and environmental justice, and the elimination of anti-Asian violence, police misconduct, and human trafficking. AALDEF supports the New York DREAM legislation and encourages the New York City Council to adopt these two resolutions calling on the New York State legislature to pass the New York DREAM Act and the New York DREAM Fund Commission.

AALDEF believes that federal immigration policy must adhere to basic human rights principles that reflect the realities of the nation and its residents, especially the millions of undocumented people who form the economic backbone of this country. As evident in our work, the needs of immigrants in the United States impact many policy areas and affect all aspects of family life – from economic justice for workers to affordable housing for families to education equity for students.

At our immigration clinics, undocumented students routinely approach us with questions not just about immigration issues but also about how to access higher education. We have recently begun working with Asian American students from New York and New Jersey who are launching a youth group and safe space for Asian American DREAMers. They tell us that Asian undocumented youth are often burdened by the model minority myth and therefore overlooked. Because they have been unable to legalize their status, one of the biggest issues that all of these students tell us about is their struggle to pay for college.

Many undocumented students in our communities came as children. Some were not even aware of their undocumented status until they began applying to college. Others grew up worrying about how they would pay for college because despite being able to get in, they cannot access financial aid and their families are unable to afford the tuition.

Our federal immigration policies have failed to meet the needs of these students and their families. New York DREAM legislation is critical in helping to fill this unmet need for the thousands of students who are seeking financial aid for higher education.

New York is already one of twelve states that allow undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition for public colleges. Despite this important step, undocumented students continue to struggle to pay for college because they do not have equal opportunities to access financial aid. New York DREAM legislation will ensure all students in this state equal access to aid for higher education regardless of their immigration status.

Undocumented youth represent an abundance of potential for our country and their families. In the absence of federal solutions to fix our broken immigration system, New York DREAM legislation helps to address the many needs of thousands of undocumented students in this state and their families.

Bethany Y. Li
Staff Attorney
212-966-5932, ext. 213

New York and New Jersey youth are launching a youth group for Asian American/Pacific Islander DREAMers with AALDEF. Anyone interested in being part of this initiative should contact

Image: Long Island Wins/Flickr