California Passes Other Half of DREAM Act Package

While many applauded Governor Jerry Brown’s recent efforts to make college more affordable for all of California’s students, others insisted the state didn’t go far enough. Back in July, Gov. Brown signed AB 130—a bill that allows undocumented students enrolled in California’s public colleges and universities to receive privately-funded university scholarships from non-state funds. At the time, however, its companion bill, AB 131—which would allow undocumented students to apply for state-sponsored financial aid—was stuck in California’s Senate Appropriations Committee. Last week, despite opposition from immigration restrictionists, both California’s State Assembly and Senate approved AB 131 which is now on its way to Gov. Brown’s desk. Many predict Gov. Brown will sign the measure based on promises he made during his campaign.

As previously reported, AB 131 builds on AB 130 by allowing undocumented students to apply for and receive Board of Governors Fee Waivers at community colleges, Cal Grants at universities (only after such grants are awarded to eligible documented students), and some types of financial aid administered at the university or college level (such as UC Grants). It would also expand eligibility for California in-state tuition to those who graduate from California adult schools and vocational schools, as long as the student also attended a California high school for at least one year.

Immigration restrictionist, as expected, were quick to call AB 131 “too expensive” for the state, despite findings from the California Assembly Committee on Appropriations that AB 131 would “not increase overall spending” on institutional aid in the state. In fact, a recent study by the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment finds that AB 131 could play a critical role in boosting the overall number of college grads necessary to keep California’s economy strong. The Public Policy Institute of California estimates by 2025, the state will not have enough college graduates to keep up with economic demand.

Although Congress failed to pass a national DREAM Act bill last December, it’s clear that states want immigration reforms that benefit their economies in the long run. What better way to invest in state economies than granting undocumented students access to greater educational opportunities and better jobs, which in turn means more taxable income for the state? Nationally, there are 1.9 million undocumented children who could benefit from the DREAM Act.

Pending Gov. Brown’s signature, California will join Texas and New Mexico in states that offer financial aid to undocumented students. Currently, 12 states (California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexcio, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Washington) offer in-state tuition to undocumented students.

Passing legislation that makes higher education more affordable for California’s students is clearly a great step forward, but California is only one state. Until Congress passes legislation that makes higher education affordable to all students across the country, the United States will continue to miss out on future entrepreneurs, doctors, teachers, and scientist and the vital tax revenues they generate.

Photo by SEIU International.

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  • Don Honda

    I’m sorry, but you are being disrespectful of your fellow Legal Immigrants. Using terms such as “Immigration Restrictionists” is misleading and harmful to those of us how follow the Legal US process of becoming a Legal Immigrant, Legal Students, and Legal Worker, and finally a Naturalized Citizen of the United States. Most US citizens are FOR Legal Immigrations and welcome Legal Immigrants. They are a generous people and it is a wonderful opportunity to become a citizen here.

    You know the opposition is against Illegal Aliens and against their getting further public tax monies that defy the rule of law and makes the efforts of Legal Immigrants be worthless.

    This probably won’t be published as it is apparent that you wish to pursue your biased slant.

  • Sam

    Are you really condemning DREAM Act eligible students? Students who had no choice in coming here, students who work hard and stay out of trouble, students who want the same thing all students in America want? While it’s great that some immigrants are able to navigate their way through our clearly outdated immigration system and adjust their status, these DREAM students are already here and have been since they were children.

    Secondly, I wish everyone who uses the “why don’t they just come the right way” argument would explain what exactly the right way is. Do you mean you want them to wait 20 years for a visa through family sponsorship? Do you mean you want them to magically obtain one of the few employment visas available to them? Or do you want them to get on their knees and pray they win a visa through the diversity lottery system?

    If all the self-proclaimed defenders of the “rule of law” would A) first read the law and B) put as much energy into fixing our broken and outdated immigration laws as they do morally judging immigrants without status, we might not be having this conversation.

  • Jill

    It is fine to allow undocumented aliens to go to school and college but quit acting like they will be able to contribute to the tax base. They still will be undocumented when they get out of school. Then how do you expect them to get a good job? Work for cash?

    • Sam

      The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimated that undocumented immigrants paid $11.2 billion in state and local taxes in 2010. (http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/unauthorized-immigrants-pay-taxes-too)

      That being said, you’re right, Jill, on the larger point. These undocumented students could contribute so much more if we put them on a path to citizenship through the DREAM Act. If we’re willing to provide them with an American education, why not retain the talent when they’re done and give them an opportunity to contribute?

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