California D.R.E.A.M Act Still on Hold

Stefany Chen / Guardian

Supporters of the California D.R.E.A.M. Act — which would allow illegal immigrants to receive financial aid from public universities and colleges — are pushing for its approval despite the Sept. 2 failure of a federal version of the bill.

The federal D.R.E.A.M. Act would grant undocumented immigrants a pathway to permanent residency, as well as citizenship upon the completion of military service or college.

This version failed in Congress, but similar bills in California — SB1460 and AB1413, collectively known as the California D.R.E.A.M. Act 2010 — have been approved by California Senate and await approval from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Like previous attempts to provide financial aid for undocumented immigrants, SB1460 and AB1413 build on the earlier California D.R.E.A.M. Act 2001. The 2001 version granted in-state tuition status, but not financial aid.

Under the 2010 version, anyone who has graduated from a California high school after attending for at least three years qualifies for resident tuition and financial aid from California public universities and community colleges, regardless of legal status.

Tuition at California public universities — including the University of California — has risen in past years. If the California D.R.E.A.M. Act 2010 passes, approximately 605 additional undergraduates will qualify for $1.8 million in financial aid.

The California D.R.E.A.M. Act 2010 may, however, meet the same fate as its federal cousin. In 2007, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed a previous version of the D.R.E.A.M. Act, citing the state’s financial difficulties.

“I share the author’s goal of making affordable education available to all California students,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement, “but given the precarious fiscal condition the state faces at this time, it would not be prudent to place additional demands on our limited financial aid resources as specified in this bill.”

Representatives from the UC Office of the President have voiced their support for the bill in spite of the promise of added financial burden.

UCOP representative Karen French wrote a letter to Schwarzenegger’s office on behalf of the office, offering support for SB1460 and requesting that the governor sign the bill.

“SB1460 addresses the remaining hurdle for [undocumented] students: their inability to receive institutional aid,” French wrote. “Through their hard work and perseverance, these students have earned the opportunity to attend a UC. Their accomplishments should not be disregarded or their future jeopardized because of their legal status.”

Similarly, after the federal D.R.E.A.M. Act failed earlier this month Senator Gilbert Cedillo — author of the California D.R.E.A.M. Act and its predecessors — expressed his disappointment with Congress in a press release posted on his website: “The U.S. Senate has lost the opportunity to advance the future of thousands of young talented students and our economy. We have duties and obligations to move young talent forward in our state and support them with equal education opportunities.”

A.S. Vice President of External Affairs Michael Lam said he is working with UC student leaders to promoting the legislation

“This year [we will be working] with University of California Student Association to launch a campaign titled Economic Justice for the UC [which in part] will be to ensure that all students, no matter their documentation status, have a right to afford higher education,” he said.

UCSA is a coalition of UC students dedicated to increasing the accessibility of the UC system.

However, critics of the bill, such as Dan Stein, President of Federation for American Immigration Reform, called the bill for being reckless and irresponsible in an interview with PR Newswire.

“The California legislature continues to demonstrate its contempt for law-abiding, taxpaying Californians,” he said. “As they put the final touches on a budget that cuts vital services and programs, illegal aliens get new rewards.”

Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman has expressed similar views on her policy page: “Meg is opposed to any form of amnesty. As Governor, Meg will support policies that will not allow undocumented immigrants admission to state-funded institutions of higher education.”

Although support for the bill is not universal, D.R.E.A.M. Act supporters say it is vital for it to be passed.

“The Dream Act [provides] the opportunity for all students [to access] affordable higher education.” Lam said. “People will always have opinions, but as the External Affairs office, we support the D.R.E.A.M. Act. We will continue to work hard to get the bill passed.”

Warren College senior and undocumented immigrant John Erickson*, who wished to remain anonymous, said he believes that the D.R.E.A.M. Act is an issue that will continue until the legislation is passed.

“We are frustrated that the federal bill did not pass, but now our energies are redirected towards the California one,” he said. “This is an issue that will not go away. It might not happen right, now but it will win.”

Though Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill, Erickson said he is optimistic that the governor’s views may change, or that a successor will be more sympathetic to the issue.

“Historically, it may not seem like there is much of a chance, but we can see that [Schwarzenegger’s ] stance towards higher education is shifting,” Erickson said. “With the momentum built from [the March 4 Day of Action] and the 32-percent fee increases — in addition to the fact that he is leaving — we’re hoping for the best.”

Even if Schwarzenegger signs the California D.R.E.A.M. Act 2010 before its Sept. 30 deadline, the effects will be largely nullified without the passage of a federal D.R.E.A.M. Act.

Without the federal bill, undocumented immigrants who have received college degrees will still be unable to legal their status and enter the workforce.

Nonetheless, President Hoku Jeffrey of By Any Means Necessary — a statewide organization dedicated to expanding immigrant rights — said in an e-mail that he believes the bill will eventually pass.

“I think the new Civil Rights and Immigrant movements will continue to grow, and so eventually they will pass,” Jeffrey said. “America cannot grow to be a racial caste system in which Latina/o and immigrant communities live at the bottom. The passage of the D.R.E.A.M. Acts would be a joyous day in the lives of immigrant communities. The dream of becoming doctors, lawyers, engineers teachers will be closer to reality.”

*Names have been changed.

More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Donate to The UCSD Guardian
Our Goal