In California, the Dream Is an Act

JULY 26, 2011

The California dream of an affordable, top-notch state-sponsored education for all is nothing to dream about for legal California students.

Just signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown was AB 130, the “California Dream Act of 2011,” authored by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles. The Dream Act will allow students who are in the country illegally to pay in-state tuition and apply for grants and private-college scholarships, competing with legal residents of the state.

The California Dream Act merely rewards illegal behavior while placing a new financial burden on California taxpayers.

Despite multiple vetoes of previous Dream Act bills by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brown signed Cedillo’s bill on Monday. But Schwarzenegger’s last veto message still resonates: “Given the precarious fiscal condition the state faces at this time, it would not be prudent to place additional demands on our limited financial aid resources as specified in this bill.”

Brown has been slashing and cutting crucial services within the state for months, saying that the budget cuts will be “vast and hurtful, but it’s better to take our medicine now.”

But the hurtful medicine will not be felt by members of the California Teachers Association, thanks to Brown, who recently signed into law AB 114. It gutted the school agency financial oversight laws, will prevent school districts from using July and August to make additional layoffs and will require school districts to maintain programs and staffing levels “commensurate with” the previous year’s levels.

Now with passage of the Dream Act, many expect the CTA to push for more growth and state spending in California’s education system.

Education and Immigration Law

The underlying principles used in the creation of the California college and university system were “for all regardless of their economic means,” and that academic progress was only to be “limited by individual proficiency.”  The passage of the Dream Act just eroded these principles.

The claim that many illegal immigrants currently pay the higher out-of-state tuition on California state college campuses is shaky. In May I wrote a story about the CSU system, which boldly promotes Hispanic educational opportunities at its campuses, and touts the California State University as “the university of choice for Hispanics.”

The vast number of specialty programs California State University colleges have created make the process nearly seamless for Hispanic students who apply for college — regardless of legal status.

“Today, 23.8 percent of CSU students are Hispanic, 14 percent of the CSU staff is Hispanic, 8.2 percent of the CSU full-time faculty is Hispanic and 17 CSU campuses are listed in Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education’s annual Top 100,” states the CSU website.

But many involved in California’s education system are critical of the disregard for state and federal immigration laws by the Legislature and governor.

Federal law states that illegal immigrants “shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a state for any postsecondary education benefit … unless a U.S. citizen or national is eligible for such benefit without regard to whether he is a resident.”

“Presumably, the intent of this law was to give states the nominal choice of whether or not to grant illegal immigrants in-state tuition rates, while making the financial consequences of granting in-state tuition rates to illegals so onerous that, as a practical matter, no state would ever choose to do so,” said a longtime state education policy analyst who asked to remain anonymous.

But the California State Legislature, chock full of lawyers, pulled a fast one and found a legal way around this law by granting in-state tuition to anyone, regardless of residence.

The Legislature declared that any illegal immigrant who attends a California high school for at least 3 years and graduates, files an affidavit declaring that he has filed, or will file, an application for U.S .citizenship, has complied with both conditions of federal law:

1. It based eligibility for the in-state tuition benefit on criteria other than residency, and;

2. It granted the in-state tuition benefit to all U.S. citizens and nationals pursuant to the same criteria applied to illegal immigrants.

“The Legislature had accomplished precisely what the federal law was intended to prevent:  extending eligibility for a postsecondary education benefit to illegal immigrants while excluding U.S. citizens who were not California residents from being eligible for this same benefit,” the education analyst said.

The other damning aspect of the Dream Act is that it could actually reduce the amount of scholarship funds available for legitimate residents of the State. Allowing any undocumented student to qualify for financial aid greatly decreases the availability of Cal Grants and other financial aid for the more than 100,000 legal students who apply annually.

The California Dream Act will reward illegal behavior, place a new financial burden on California taxpayers, and cut legal state residents out of the education system.

The University of California already awards scholarships funded from a mix of public and private sources. There is nothing in AB 130 to prevent the university from awarding scholarships currently funded by private sources to illegal alien students, thereby reducing the amount of privately funded scholarship aid to legitimate, legal residents.

Can’t Get Legal Jobs

Last year, Assemblyman Chris Norby, R-Fullerton, expressed concern during a legislative committee that the state of California was making substantial financial investments in the futures of people who legally cannot get a job after graduation. With the federal government cracking down on businesses that hire illegal immigrants, California Legislators are playing with fire by increasing the numbers of college educated illegal immigrants.

The CSU Undocumented Student Resource Guide provides information and access to scholarships. So does the “California Nonresident Tuition Exemption Request for Eligible California High School Graduates,” which begins the process to match up illegal immigrant college students with an amazing array of grants, scholarships and fee waivers for college tuition.

The resource guide even offers free legal advice in the “Know your Rights!” section. This section also tells students who feel discriminated against “to contact the controversial Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF)  for assistance.”

Also included is a section on obtaining scholarships, which “are open to students regardless of immigration status.”

The bill was pushed through the Legislature by Democratic Hispanic legislators claiming “fairness for students.”

What does not square is that the governor has been making drastic cuts to police, fire, health and other front-line services because the state is running out of money. But this law will only add to the financial burden of the state’s college and university systems.

Brown is still paying back the special interest groups that put him into office. But what is more suspect is that there is pending federal legislation that would solve the legal problem for illegal college students: The “Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act” would grant conditional legal status to qualifying illegal youths brought here before age 16 if they go to college or enlist in the military.

It appears that Brown knows what he is doing, while the rest of us are only now becoming aware of the grand plan.

— Katy Grimes

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  1. Sol
    Sol 29 July, 2011, 11:17

    Your article is not researched very well; the Dream Act isn’t for illegal immigrants, it’s for undocumented students that have graduated from a U.S (specifically California and New York so far) high schools before a certain time frame. There are rules and regulations and like any other application for grants and scholarships, which ask for a certain G.P.A, interests and good standing in their community. You can not apply if you have criminal backgrounds or if you are before or after a specific age. Don’t you believe that there exceptions to every rule? I’m curious to know what you would fight for/ believe in if your life was different. If your parents brought you here involuntarily; at an age in which you were not aware of the changes. Say that is your circumstance, the cards you were dealt with. You live your entire life this way, are you supposed to not have dreams and goals with your life because someone ruined it for you? I understand where the financial opinion comes from, but this is also a social issue, and an issue of compassion. Would you rather these students stay in the country uneducated and desperate for success, running a muck, getting into trouble and whatever other stereotypical statistics you know about Hispanics.

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  2. Lydia
    Lydia 10 August, 2011, 09:11

    I don’t think it’s a lack of compassion but an issue of doing things in the right order. What about applying for legal residency first? The same parents who brought them here have also lived off of a draining system of free benefits. Our state and education system is in trouble because of it. They claim “rights” that are not theirs if they don’t abide by the first law of being a legal citizen. They get better medical care than an average VETERAN. The dream act is putting the cart before the horse, taxpayers fund it all and suffer the most. Ask how many Americans are living the “dream” in California. Ask the legal citizens…..

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