CA DREAM Act Nears Success

Director for Civil and Human Rights for the Student Sustainability Collective and Student Affirmative Action Committee (SAAC) A.S. representative Victor Flores-Osorio has been actively involved in lobbying for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act since his freshman year.

“SAAC has been working on it for at least three years,” Flores-Osorio said. “[Passage of the DREAM Act] will be a win for the progressive community on campus.”

The DREAM Act — originally proposed into senate Aug. 1, 2001 by Sen. Orin Hatch, R-Ut, and Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Il, — is a two-part legislation that makes illegal immigrants eligible to receive financial aid. The proposed legislation — designed for illegal immigrants who arrived in the country as minors — stipulates that candidates be of “good moral character,” have lived in the country for five years continuously prior to the bill’s enactment, graduate from an American high school and continue onto at least two years of higher education.

“[The DREAM Act] gives [an] opportunity for people in between borderlines of affording college to attend,” Flores-Osorio said. “It’s a good step; it provides financial aid to students who never had financial aid at one point or another.”

The California DREAM Act differs from the national DREAM Act, which was reintroduced into senate in May, in that it cannot provide a pathway to citizenship.

The first measure of the DREAM Act, which passed in July 2011, extends access to illegal immigrant students to receive privately funded scholarships for state schools. The second part of the DREAM Act would enable illegal immigrant students to receive public scholarships, such as Cal Grants. According to a story published Aug. 31 in the New York Times entitled “Legislature in California set to pass a Dream Act,” Gov. Jerry Brown has not publicly stated that he would sign the second measure, however his staff is reportedly working with California legislators to minimize costs.

The DREAM Act will not significantly affect the UC student body, UC officials told the Los Angeles Times Sept. 24 in “Dream Act legislation could complicate student aid picture.”
“It’s not going to have significant impact at all, and it won’t create a competitive disadvantage to students of this country,” UCLA Director of Financial Aid Ronald Johnson told the Los Angeles Times.

Both the $1.3 billion Cal Grant entitlement program – unlimited grants that are given to students meeting both academic and low-income requirements – and the $127 million funded Cal Grant competitive awards will not interfere with U.S. residents applying for the aid. According to the Los Angeles Times, institutional grants, which are funded through student fees, are another source of financial aid for low-income students.

While the DREAM Act could be beneficial to many, immediate visible changes at the UC level would remain to be seen, according to Flores-Osorio. Attributing increasing UC tuition as a key component to influencing minority enrollment, Flores-Osorio anticipates positive changes will more likely be seen at community colleges and California State Universities. Flores-Osorio estimates the UCs will not experience increased minority enrollment until later generations.

Even if the DREAM Act passes, undocumented students will still face difficulties to get scholarships, Flores-Osorio said.
“Scholarships are limited to students who don’t have a social security number,” Flores-Osorio said.  

Flores-Osorio says there is a possibility of a small backlash from conservative students. An “Increase Diversity Bake Sale” organized by the UC Berkeley College Republicans is indicative of potential larger reactions, should Gov. Brown approve the second measure, Flores-Osorio said.

“The UC Berkeley racist bake sale is making fun of affirmative action,” Flores-Osorio said. “There might be a backlash at UCSD, but it would probably only be a small group of people.”
According to Flores-Osorio, the university does not take regular statistics of its undocumented students, so the number of students the DREAM Act would potentially help is unknown. Despite this fact, Flores-Osorio believes it will have a positive impact on future students hoping to attend university.

Muir College junior Michelle Lara, who works as Campus Diversity Engagement Co-Coordinator at SPACES, said she personally knows of Assembly Bill 540 students who could greatly benefit from the DREAM Act.

“I know a lot of them have had to leave because of [lack of] affordability,” Lara said. “They’re getting shoved out of the system. If the DREAM Act passes, they’d be able to stay and graduate.”
Associate Vice President of External Affairs Samer Naji does not see UCSD experiencing any negative effects if the bill passes.

“It would literally just help students who are not eligible for [government issued] financial aid now,” Naji said. “Along with every UC campus there’s going to be AB540 students – that’s without a doubt – almost every AB540 student will be able to access financial aid.”

A spokesperson from the UC Office of the President could not be reached for comment.

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