Governor’s Veto-Happy Attitude Hinders Progress

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the revised California Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which would have made financial aid available to undocumented students, this Tuesday citing the state’s “precarious fiscal condition.” But this attitude threatens to further cripple a state already handicapped by budgetary restraints. The governor is correct — California is in a fiscal crisis. However, the way to fix California’s finances is certainly not by blanket vetoing new bills, particularly when these bills are so important to building the state’s future.

Providing adequate financial aid for all of California’s students is necessary. While critics have opposed the D.R.E.A.M. Act for condoning illegal immigration, taking financial aid from taxpaying students and placing additional financial burden on the state budget, these arguments are shallow at best. AB540 already allows undocumented students to attend UC and CSU campuses at in-state rates — that isn’t up for debate — and rather than condone illegal immigration, the D.R.E.A.M. Act would have the reverse effect, requiring that recipients take steps to attain citizenship. Federal and state tax dollars, as well as student fees and tuition, fund the university. Although undocumented students don’t pay income taxes, that’s a moot point because the typical college-aged citizen doesn’t either; both groups pay sales taxes but the impact a student’s contribution to the system has on the actual aid he or she receives is infinitesimal. Meanwhile, undocumented students are required to pay fees that directly contribute to the financial-aid pool from which they are currently excluded.

In many cases, immigration status is out of these students’ hands, and they have clearly worked just as diligently as their peers to achieve admittance to the state’s prestigious schools. Barring them from financial assistance for higher education over an issue they can’t control is maddening. Yes, California’s finances are overstretched, but education should be the state’s top priority.

It is irresponsible and shortsighted of the governor to repeatedly ignore legislators by vetoing this crucial measure.