This Op-Ed by Nicole Malliotakis originally appeared in the Brooklyn Reporter

The priorities of those governing New York seem to be lost in a quagmire, and we’re dangerously close to setting two very bad precedents. Our law-abiding, taxpaying citizens are struggling to make ends meet. Yet, plans are being pushed in Albany that would add millions of dollars in new costs to our higher education system without helping a single taxpaying, law-abiding citizen.

Assembly Democrats have renewed their push for the DREAM Act, a plan to provide tens of millions in taxpayer-funded tuition aid for illegal immigrants. New York shouldn’t be setting the dangerous precedent of putting those in this country illegally ahead of legal immigrants and citizen students, especially after increasing tuition at city and state universities and eliminating tuition assistance for the state’s graduate students in 2010.

Many undocumented students were brought to the U.S. as young children and want to achieve the American Dream too, but pressure needs to be put on the federal government to fix the immigration system once and for all. Until our representatives in Washington achieve this, providing taxpayer funds for illegal immigrants simply isn’t right.

As the daughter of two immigrants, I know the trials and tribulations that go into attaining the American Dream, and while it is not easy, it can be realized. At young ages, lacking money and education, my parents came to the U.S. They worked multiple jobs and made lots of sacrifices to put me through college, and I worked full-time to obtain my MBA at night. Many other middle-class families are doing the same and with the Tuition Assistance Program household income cap of $80,000, they are not receiving any state aid.

Recently, Governor Cuomo added insult to injury, proposing that the state provide free college education to convicted criminals. The intent of this program has merit – as education has long been proven to be a reliable and cost-effective way to reduce recidivism – but it sends a terrible message to financially struggling law-abiding citizens. The program should remain privately funded.

Perhaps those pushing these proposals are unaware that the average New York student leaves college with almost $26,000 in debt. Or, that families across this state are working multiple jobs to pay sky-high tuition.

Either way, one thing seems certain – there is a lack of support and compassion for the taxpaying, law-abiding American citizen. They too are the future of this nation and shouldn’t have to take a back seat to others simply because they follow the rules.