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Dream Act a step closer to passage in California

August 31, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
California's controversial Dream Act is one step closer to passing. It would allow illegal immigrants to get taxpayer-funded aid for college. The Dream Act has stirred up intense passions among both supporters and opponents. It is very close to becoming law.

Like many public campuses, UC Davis would be allowed to give public aid to illegal students. California Dream Act Part 1 already allows private aid to be given to them.

The DREAM Act was first introduced nationally in Congress as the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act in August 2001 and again in May 2011.

Democrats pushed through the California Dream Act, Part 2, allowing undocumented students going to a University of California, California State University or community college to apply for publicly funded financial aid, like Cal Grants. They say immigration status shouldn't matter.

"This is about promoting success, people. Promoting achievement. Those who work hard and become good students should not be punished for decisions made by their parents," said state Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello).

But Republicans say it's not fair to spend limited tax dollars on students who wouldn't be able to work after graduating without a Social Security number.

State Senator Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) read a letter from a concerned constituent: "Before we begin taking care of non-citizens, I believe government should be asking, Is there more we can do for the citizens playing by the rules of our state?"

Legal students get first priority for competitive grants, but illegal students would be eligible for the ones based on need.

It's estimated 25,000 undocumented students graduate from a California high school every year.

Some college students say it's a good idea, even though it might mean a little less money for them.

"I think it's great. I believe that everyone should have access to education in the state of California," said Brandon Walker, a college senior.

"They should have a chance at it too. Like my family says, where two can eat, four can eat as well," said Lidia Tavarez, a college junior.

But some critics have a problem with their hard-earned tax dollars helping an undocumented student get a degree when the money isn't there for their own kids' basic education.

"We can barely put our children through school. Our schools are packed. My kid's in a 32-student classroom," said John Roessler, a truck driver from Riverside.

Governor Jerry Brown asked for two amendments: limiting public aid to illegal students who've attended a California high school for at least three years, and plus postponing applications until 2013. That almost assures the governor would sign it once the Assembly signs off on the changes.

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