- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - About 50 immigrant students who live illegally in New York state have started a hunger strike after a proposal that would allow them to apply for state financial aid for college was not included in the state’s budget, some of the students said Wednesday.

Monica Sibri, a 22-year-old student from Ecuador who was brought illegally to the U.S. by her family when she was 16, said during a press conference in Manhattan that this a painful situation for students like her, who struggle to pay for college.

“Our elected officials need to understand that they can’t play with our lives”, Sibri said. “Please listen to us. We need the Dream Act in the budget”.

Frank Sobrino, spokesman for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, referred The Associated Press to comments Cuomo made on Tuesday to reporters. The governor, who has said he supports Dream Act, said that he would push for the measure after budget negotiations were finished.

After years of asking for it, advocates believed the bill stood a better chance of becoming a reality this time. Cuomo had linked the proposal with an education tax credit that would incentivize donations to private school scholarship funds as well as public schools. While Democrats favored the Dream Act, Republicans favored the tax credit but no agreement was reached at the end.

The immigrant students, known as “dreamers,” said they would not eat and only drink water until state officials include the Dream Act in the budget.

California, Washington, New Mexico and Texas have already passed similar measures.

Advocates and New York state education officials estimate that more than 4,500 students who live illegally in the state graduate from high school each year and could be eligible for state aid. The Dream Act, they have said, would cost $27 million.

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