State Committee Passes New Version of DREAM Act

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Though former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the California DREAM Act three times, a state assembly committee voted Tuesday to pass a new version of the legislation, which will now be reviewed by another committee before potentially being introduced to the entire Assembly.

The Assembly Committee on Higher Education passed Assembly Bills 130 and 131 - authored by Assemblymember Gilbert Cedillo, D-Los Angeles - in a 6-2 and 5-2 vote respectively. If enacted into law, the bills would expand institutional and state financial aid to undocumented students in California respectively.

Only Assemblymembers Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, and Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, voted against the act.

"I believe that this bill undermines the rule of law, and it opens up the treasury to people through no fault of their own, granted, are not supposed to be in this state," Donnelly said at the committee meeting.

Opponents of the act have argued that the act would create an incentive for illegal immigration.

Gov. Jerry Brown has stated that should the legislation come to his desk, he would support it.

Nonresident students that meet certain requirements already qualify for in-state tuition fees by meeting requirements in AB 540, including that students must have attended a California high school for three years and graduate, among other requirements.

However, any of these students that are undocumented cannot receive university or state aid, according to David Alcocer, associate director of student financial support at the UC Office of the President.

Assemblymember Marty Block, D-San Diego, said in an e-mail that he voted in favor of the bills because he believes "it critical that students who reside in the state get educational opportunities so they can contribute to California's economy as productive tax-paying workers."

At the committee meeting, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau testified on behalf of AB 130.

The overall content of the current act reflects the previous version, however, AB 131 has been edited to ensure that Cal Grants will not be reduced for students that are legal residents, according to Conrado Terrazas, communications deputy for Cedillo.

Alcocer said that he estimated about 75 percent of undocumented students would receive $4 million of financial aid under AB 130, and 50 percent of them would be eligible for Cal Grants up to about $3 million under AB 131.

Additionally, some 500 documented students that are eligible under AB 540 would benefit if the bills were to pass. Some students that do not meet state residency requirements and are considered out-of-state students, though they attended high school in California, would be eligible for Cal Grants.

"We've already invested in our children in our K-12 system," said Adam Keigwin, chief of staff for Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, who co-authored the bills. "To shut the door on their ability to go to college after that investment doesn't serve our state well, doesn't serve our communities well."

Both bills will be reviewed by the Assembly Committee on Appropriations in May, though a final date has not yet been set, according to Terrazas.


Contact Courtney Moulds at [email protected]

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