Young undocumented immigrants in California moved a step closer to a major victory on Wednesday when the state Senate approved the second part of the California Dream Act. The bill now heads to the Assembly. Both houses of the California legislature are controlled by Democrats.
Gov. Jerry Brown, also a Democrat, is expected to sign the bill–making good on a campaign promise.
The law would make California the first state in the nation to allow undocumented students who qualify for reduced in-state tuition to apply for public financial aid. Cal Grants are typically around $4,500 and undocumented youth said the state aid would greatly ease the financial burden of paying for college. Eligible students–California high school graduates who have attended schools in the state for at least three years–could also apply for community college waivers and other public aid.
In July, Gov. Brown signed part one of the California Dream Act into law, qualifying undocumented youth to receive privately-funded scholarships to attend public colleges and universities. California one of several states that have passed or are considering immigration laws in the absence of action on the federal level.
It’s not known how many students the law would benefit, but a senate analysis estimated the cost at $40 billion. That number had dissenters balking in a time of economic austerity. But proponents said hard-working young immigrants shouldn’t be punished for the illegal acts of their parents. The California Dream Act – and similar proposals in other states and in Congress – are aimed at helping young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents at a young age, but who now think of themselves as American, despite their immigration status.
“This is about promoting success,” said Sen. Ron Calderon. “Those who work hard, become good students, should not be punished for decisions made by their parents.”
Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, an opponent of the measure, has promised to organize a public referendum against the California Dream Act if it becomes law.