The California DREAM Act (AB 130), makes undocumented immigrant
college students eligible for previously unavailable privately
funded scholarships for attendance at community colleges,
state colleges, and public universities in California.. AB 130
passed through the California Senate in mid-July, and was
favored as it would not cost taxpayers anything. The passage
of AB 130 was a major victory for immigrants, as previous versions
of the California DREAM Act were approved three times before by the
state legislature, but then vetoed by former Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger each time.
In the latest effort to pass the Act, Assemblyman Gil Cedillo
split the measure into two bills, respectively known as AB 130 and
AB 131. Now the latter bill is under consideration, and it is
here where the majority of the Act's weight—and its
controversy—truly lies.Specifically, AB 131 would allow
undocumented students to access Cal Grants (the state's
financial aid) and would allow these same individuals to
qualify for Board of Governors fee waivers at community colleges,
which would allow students in low-income families to have their
tuition waived. AB 131 would also allow for undocumented
students in the University of California system to gain eligibility
for university grants.
Lawful permanent residents and U.S. citizens would still have
priority over undocumented students for Cal Grants under the
bill. Due to the nature of the economy at present,
undocumented individuals would likely not see much grant money
given their low priority, but the bill's provision for them
still marks an improvement for them regarding student financial
rights, especially as these immigrants now have more of a stake in
California's tuition equity.Bills such as AB 131 benefit from a
history of prior similar legislation benefiting undocumented
aliens. Specifically, the 2001 state law AB 540 allows
students who graduated California high schools to pay in-state
tuition regardless of their immigration status.
Today, undocumented immigrant students still reap the benefits
available from AB 540, as over three thousand such individuals are
enrolled in the Cal State system with the help from the ten-year
old law. It is the success of such older laws which drive
immigrants today to push for other measures such as AB 131, which
will extend ever more financial protections for them so that they
may build more secure futures for themselves and their families in
the United States.
Advocates on the federal level continue to push for the big
DREAM Act which would provide undocumented students who graduated
from US high schools with a path to legal permanent
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