- Eastern Group Publications/EGPNews - http://egpnews.com -

Students Waiting for Gov. to Sign CA Dream Act

Immigrant-rights advocates and supporters of undocumented students were waiting this week for Gov. Jerry Brown to sign AB 131, the California Dream Act, after the California Assembly on Sept. 2 approved the law that would allow undocumented students to receive state grants to finance their college education.

Read this story IN SPANISH: Esperan que el Gobernador Brown Firmará Ley que Beneficiará a los Estudiantes Indocumentados [1]

The Assembly approved the law on a vote of 45 to 27 in favor. The governor has 30 days to sign or veto the measure, and activists are hopeful Brown, a Democrat, will give it his signature.

“This bill, when signed by Gov. Brown, will represent a historic, giant step for education and for California’s prosperity,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).

AB 131, which would take effect in 2013, and AB 130, which will be implemented next year, will offer financing options similar to those legal residents receive in California.

The new law, however, only allows undocumented students access to the Board of Governors (BOG) Fee Waiver and institutional grants funded by California’s public universities.

Undocumented students will only be eligible to receive Cal Grant scholarships after all eligible legal residents have been awarded grants.

“It is a bitter point, which leaves undocumented students receiving leftovers from Cal Grant scholarships,” said Jorge Medina, a student at California State University Dominguez Hills.

Granting financial aid to undocumented students has been highly criticized at a time when budget cuts affecting public institutions of higher education are at a crisis level.

“At a time when the University of California and California State Universities are being cut and have had to increase the cost of their degrees, it does not make sense to offer the little financial aid available to students who are here illegally,” said Lupe Moreno, an anti-illegal immigration activist.

Critics of the measure say income levels should instead be changed to allow more “middle-class” students to receive assistance.

“I do not think we’re taking away opportunities from others, because people who want the opportunity can take it,” argued Maria Delgado, a UCLA student seeking a double major in philosophy and art.

“If they want the same opportunities they would do the same thing as us, we are at the top of our class, we are leaders and outstanding students,” said Delgado.

If signed by the governor, the full California Dream Act provides undocumented students with more options for financing their education, which, following the passage of AB540, allows undocumented students to pay the same tuition as legal residents in the state if they attended a California high school for three or more years, graduated and are registered in a state-accredited college.

“This bill ensures that young people who are eager to study and excel in meeting their goals, get a degree and help contribute to the California economy,” said Justino Mora, an undocumented Mexican student double-majoring in political science and computer engineering at UCLA.