UC Students Campaign for D.R.E.A.M. Act

University of California Student Association and UC student leaders across California are campaigning for Assembly Bills 130 and 131, which allow undocumented students to apply for financial aid while applying for or attending state schools. UCSA is urging all campuses to appeal to Gov. Jerry Brown so that the bills — also known as the California Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act — are signed into law.

“The D.R.E.A.M. Act would benefit our campus by allowing accessibility and affordability in the UC system and by allowing students to apply for the financial aid they’re already contributing to,” Sixth College Senator Kristian Castro said.

Castro is involved in the UCSA campaign through a resolution that would educate and garner support for the D.R.E.A.M. Act.

Authored by State Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), the D.R.E.A.M. Act would go into effect July 1 this year, if passed. The bill would allow undocumented students to apply for financial aid from a private pool of money while they apply for or attend college.

To be eligible, applicants must have entered the U.S. before age 16, must have lived in the U.S. for at least five years and must have a high school diploma. Applicants must also be between the ages of 12 and 35 when applying.

Administered by state colleges and universities, Return to Aid is a fund that provides institutional and university grants that undocumented students pay into through student fees, but from which they cannot receive aid. While these students are currently eligible for in-state tuition under AB540, they are not allowed access to institutional financial aid or state grants.

During the Jan. 18-20 UC Board of Regents meeting, UCSA President and UC Santa Cruz junior Claudia Magaña requested that the regents sign a letter to Brown in support of the D.R.E.A.M. Act. Nine of the 26 board members signed it at the meeting.

“We need the regents’ support today for the D.R.E.A.M. Act,” Magaña said in a press statement on Jan. 24. “While President [Mark G.] Yudof has supported the D.R.E.A.M. Act publicly, he is not the only member of the board. Students want to see more than sympathy from the regents; they want to see leadership.”

Magaña also expressed concern over the $500 million cut to the UC system under Brown’s proposed budget.

“Every campus leader, every department, every auxiliary and service must face the challenges that lie ahead while protecting affordability and the services that retain and support our students,” she said.

UCSA has called for all undergraduate campuses to participate in the campaign by collecting postcards addressed to Brown in support of the D.R.E.A.M. Act. The postcards collected from these UC campuses will be delivered to the governor’s office at the annual UCSA Lobby Day on Feb. 28.

A resolution in favor of the act was presented to and passed by A.S. Council on Feb. 8. The resolution, authored by Vice President of External Affairs Michael Lam, Campus Organizing Director Chevelle Newell and Castro, establishes the council’s full support of the California D.R.E.A.M. Act.

The resolution presented to council said that AB540 individuals at UCSD are part of the student community and emphasized UCSA’s belief in affordable and accessible education.

AB540 individuals are exempt from paying out-of-state tuition under Assembly Bill 540, legislation passed in 2001 that allows undocumented students to pay in-state fees at a California community college, state university or UC campus, provided they attend high school in California for three or more years and graduate or obtain equivalency.

The motion also encourages the six college councils to collect 200 signed postcards from their constituents by Feb. 24. The campus-wide goal of collecting 1,500 postcards will also be assisted by student volunteers.

“We wrote the resolution to let the student council know about the UCSA’s statewide campaign,” Castro said. “[Our campus] is a part of the UCSA, and the UCSA works as a coalition. The postcard campaign would allow students to recognize that there are students on campus who need the financial aid because [not everyone has] the privilege to apply for financial or institutional aid.”

Castro said that the resolution passed through council with no objections and many councilmembers plan to attend a Feb. 28 lobby conference in support of the act.

“The Office is assisting the UCSA because it is a UC-wide campaign,” Lam said. “Last week, we tabled on Library Walk and this week, we will be going in and out of classrooms to talk to students about what we’re doing. We e-mail the professors ahead of time, and we only go into classrooms [where] we feel like the professors understand what the issues are.”