ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pressing for free tuition for SUNY students, but whether immigrants in the country illegally would be eligible remains a whole separate debate.
The state Assembly on Monday planned to pass the so-called Dream Act that would allow the immigrants and their children to get tuition assistance to attend college in New York.
The measure, which has passed the Democratic-led Assembly five times, faces opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate, and it comes as Cuomo is proposing in his budget plan to provide free SUNY tuition for households that earn less than $125,000 a year.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, said Democrats want to move on both tracks: pressing for the Dream Act and cutting college costs.
"When we sit down with the Senate and the governor, we are going to have college affordability and the Dream Act as priorities for us," Heastie told reporters Monday.
Many Republican lawmakers have opposed the Dream Act, while some legislators have also raised concerns about Cuomo's SUNY tuition plan proposed last month.
Cuomo is seeking to have the state pay $163 million a year to fund SUNY tuition for those income eligible -- this fall for those earning $100,000 annually, then to $110,000 in 2018 and then to $125,000 a year in 2019.
Tuition is currently $6,470 a year at SUNY's four-year colleges.
Separately, the Democratic governor included the Dream Act in his state budget plan for the fiscal year starting April 1.
"Governor Cuomo remains committed to both. And both are in the budget," said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi.
Cuomo is expected to visit Buffalo and Binghamton on Tuesday to tout the tuition proposal.
Democrats in the Assembly and Senate on Monday also proposed a series of measures to strengthen immigrant rights in New York amid the ongoing controversy over a federal immigration order Jan. 27 by President Trump.
The Assembly was poised to pass the so-called New York State Liberty Act that would limit the state's questioning of people's immigration status for state and local services, as well as when dealing with law enforcement.
It would also prohibit using state and local resources to create a database of people's demographics, and it would lower the sentences of misdemeanor offenses to limit deportation.
Republicans knocked the package, and it had no Republican sponsor in the Senate.
The state Conservative Party said the measures would essentially make New York a "sanctuary city," which limits enforcement of federal immigration laws.
"Government's primary role is to protect its citizens by upholding the rule of law," the party said. "The fact that people have entered the United States and New York State by breaking the rule of law should not grant them the same rights that citizens have."