D.R.E.A.M. Act Revived in California Assembly

On Tuesday, Jan. 11, Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) — the author of the original California D.R.E.A.M. Act — introduced a bill to grant illegal immigrants access to community colleges’ Board of Governors fee waiver, as well as additional financial aid programs.

“The biggest issue is letting people know that this not going to take away from the current students,” Ceja said.

Although more students will be eligible to receive financial aid, the funds for the aid packages will come from a private pool of funds, so the change would not place additional financial burdens on the state.

“When we presented the D.R.E.A.M. Act, we were very careful to take care of two key issues,” Field Deputy Fredy Ceja said. “The first is that this will not take any existing resources from students. AB 130, which is the new title for the bill, is going to allow for institutionalized funding, which is fee waivers and scholarships from each university.”

These funds from individual institutions can draw from sources like alumni associations and university scholarship programs, according to Ceja.

“There have been a lot of universities who wanted to give scholarships out to undocumented students,” Ceja said. “But the law being the way it is right now, they were scared to give money to undocumented students.”

Ceja said the law will help both the students and the universities.

This law would actually clarify the ambiguities with giving money to undocumented students and it would pretty much give them a green light to go ahead and allow undocumented students to compete for those monies.”

Ceja said universities have the funds to provide undocumented students financial aid.

“There’s a vast pool of private money out there, especially coming from alumni associations, that some students [like] undocumented students are unable to access,” he said. “This bill allows them to access that money [and allows] universities to give money to undocumented students that is not taking any resources away from anybody.”

The second issue Ceja addresses in AB 131, a separate bill that allows undocumented students who are California residents to apply for Cal Grants — a program funded by the state that provides low-income students with maximum of $11,124 in financial aid per year in the UC system.

“If the governor agrees to it, to allow the Cal Grants to be competitive, [then] now-undocumented students would be vying for those Cal Grants as well,” Ceja said.

Cedillo’s bill is based on one he originally proposed in 2006, when it passed in the state senate and assembly but was vetoed four times by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“This is a legislative agenda [Cedillo] pursued year after year and, even after getting the California D.R.E.A.M. Act vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger four times, he was going to push one more time,” Ceja said.

In the veto message last year, Schwarzenegger said it was not the right time to pass the act, in light of the state’s economy.

The UC system was supportive of AB 450, the first D.R.E.A.M. Act bill.

“We do anticipate that we will once again support both of these measures,” UCOP spokesperson Steve Montiel said.
Supporters of the D.R.E.A.M. Act said they would now have a better chance of passing the bill, as Gov. Jerry Brown is a Democrat.

“This is [Cedillo’s] last legislative year in the legislature so he wants to make sure that he goes in there with the new administration with Jerry Brown, who is a lot friendlier to our issues, and keep pushing his agenda,” Ceja said.
Right now, Cedillo’s office is focused on gathering support for the bill.

“The next step is to rally up the coalition of labor leaders, businesses, college students [and] community leaders who have an interest in allowing the undocumented population to continue their education,” Ceja said. “We’ve always said that it doesn’t make sense that the state of California provides a free public education [for] K-12 to undocumented students and then drop them in the end.”

The bill will first go through the state assembly, jump to senate and then to the governor’s desk.

“The governor spoke very highly of the D.R.E.A.M. act,” Ceja said. “He said that he still supports it 100 percent. Everything looks really good for us this year. We do have a governor that is very open and candid about supporting the D.R.E.A.M. act.”

If the bill is approved, California will be the third state, following Texas and New Mexico to, offer financial aid to undocumented immigrant students.

Readers can contact Regina Ip at [email protected]. 

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