Angy Rivera, a 21 year-old criminology student at John Jay College in Midtown Manhattan, came to the United States from Colombia as a child. She told the New York Daily News that she became undocumented at the age of three, when her family moved to Queens. Because of her immigration status, she cannot qualify for student loans or other federal financial aid. New York state law does allow her to pay in-state tuition, however, and she obtained a few small scholarships. She sells handmade “education bracelets” online for $5 each, as well as t-shirts and other items, to raise money to pay for school. Recently, finding that sales of bracelets and t-shirts were not close to meeting her $2,565 per semester tuition bill, she cut back her courseload and “outed” herself online as an undocumented immigrant and asked for more direct assistance. Using websites like Facebook and Chipin, she asked for $5 donations to help with her education costs. Her story appeared in the Daily News on January 7.
Enter Luis Hernandez, a retired subway conductor who lives in Brooklyn. Hernandez read about Rivera in the Daily News and decided to help. Rather than contribute $5, on January 10 he went to the bursar’s office at John Jay and paid Rivera’s entire bill for the semester. He told her by phone while she was at a Starbucks in Greenwich Village. They reportedly have no plans to meet in person. Hernandez was humble about his philanthropy, telling the Daily News he did not deserve publicity and was just happy to help. Rivera expressed amazement and gratitude at the generosity of a complete stranger. She will now be able to take a full courseload in the spring semester.
New York City’s Board of Regents is pressing the Legislature to offer more assistance to undocumented students attending public colleges. The National Immigration Law Center, as reported by the New York Times, estimates that about 4,550 undocumented students graduate from New York high schools every year, and about 227 of them choose to go to public colleges in the state.
State law allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition if they meet the same basic residency requirements as citizens. Since the DREAM Act failed in Congress in 2010, undocumented students cannot obtain any sort of federal financial aid. A state-level version, dubbed the New York Dream Act, is now looking for support in the Legislature. Similar bills have been politically divisive around the country. New York’s Education Department has produced an estimate of what the program would cost, to the tune of $627,428 per year, a small sum compared to other expenses regularly carried by the state. Rivera’s case is inspiring, offering a tale of a hard-working and resourceful student helped by a generous benefactor, but her story is rare. Perhaps the many undocumented students, nearly all of whom came to the United States as children, should not all have to wait and hope for such generosity from strangers.
The New York immigration lawyers at Samuel C. Berger, P.C. help immigrants seeking visas to come to, or remain in, the United States. To schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys today, contact us online or at (212) 380-8117.
More Blog Posts:
Runaway Teen Turns Up in Colombia after Accidental Deportation, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, January 12, 2012
Federal Officials Launch Immigration Scam Education Campaign, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, December 22, 2011
Sister of New Jersey Cancer Patient Granted Visa to Try to Save Her Life, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, December 14, 2011
Photo credit: Manhattan skyline and Central Park, New York City by davidlat on stock.xchng.