Gov. Brown signs Dream Act – Part 1

Gov. Jerry Brown ended a veto streak by his predecessor, signing a bill to let undocumented college students apply for private scholarships at state colleges and  universities. AB 130 is one of a two-bill set by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) that makes college more affordable for students brought to the country illegally by their parents.

During a signing ceremony (watch the video here) Monday in the Martin Luther King Jr. Library at Los Angeles City College, Cedillo praised Gov. Brown for being a man of his word and for his courageous leadership on this issue.  The Governor had made signing a state Dream Act one of his campaign promises during a debate with rival Meg Whitman.

Assemblyman Gil Cedillo at signing of his bill AB 130, part of the California Dream Act (photo from Assembly Access video)

Assemblyman Gil Cedillo at signing of his bill AB 130, part of the California Dream Act (photo from Assembly Access video)

“By being here today you are giving testament to the importance of education and the value of hard work, dedication and academic excellence regardless of immigration status,” Cedillo said to the Governor.

The second part of the Dream Act, AB 131, faces a tougher road because it would open the state-funded Cal Grants program to the students.  That bill is currently on hold in the state senate and won’t be acted on until the legislature returns from summer break in a couple of weeks. Gov. Brown has not said whether he’ll sign it if it should pas, but has indicated that he supports the principles behind the act.

Governor calls AB 130 an “investment in people”

In his remarks, Brown continued the theme of making higher education accessible, noting that half of all babies born in California are born into very low income families, and investing in their education is an investment in the state’s economic viability.

Gov. Brown signs Dream Act on back on its author, Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (photo from Assembly Access video)

Gov. Brown signs Dream Act on back on its author, Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (photo from Assembly Access video)

“This is one piece of a very important mosaic, which is a California that works for everyone, and a California who understands where our strength is,” and that’s not just in having extra money for entertainment said the Governor.  “It’s also being able to go to a Community college or a state college and being able to afford it.”

Then in an impromptu lighthearted moment, the Governor placed the bill on Cedillo’s back and signed it so everyone in the room could get a view of the historic event.  AB 130 takes effect on January 1, 2010.

Critics warn that the law invites further illegal immigration to California, draining resources that aren’t even adequate for legal residents.  “Every additional dollar the state spends on illegal immigrants is a dollar it cannot spend on students who are here legally,” wrote Assemblyman Jim Silva (R-Huntington Beach) in an Op-Ed in the Orange County Register. “Such an action will only act as another magnet to encourage more illegal immigration because of all the generous taxpayer-funded benefits that California offers.”

The new law and its sister bill pertain to a specific group of undocumented students; those who meet the requirements for instate tuition through AB 540.   The 2001 bill, which was recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, lets any student who attended a California high school for at least three years and graduated or earned a GED in California, pay resident tuition rates at the University of California, California State University and California community colleges.

Federal DREAM Act remains in doubt

Although it didn’t overshadow Monday’s ceremony, uncertainty over the federal DREAM Act wasn’t far from thought.  In a jab directed at Congress and President Obama, Cedillo urged Washington to make the federal DREAM Act a bigger priority.

“We hope and pray and we wait for immigration reform to come from Washington, and we hope and pray for leadership to come from the White House,” said Cedillo.

The federal legislation differs significantly from Cedillo’s bills by creating a path to citizenship for some undocumented students, something only Congress can do. The most recent version was defeated during the lame-duck session just after last November’s election that swept the GOP into the House leadership.

Ten years after if was first introduced in Congress, supporters are showing no signs of backing down.  Senator Dick Durban (D-Illinois) and Representative Howard Berman (D-CA) reintroduced the DREAM Act this past May as S. 952 and H.R. 1842.  The official title is the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2011.

This entry was posted in Jerry Brown, Undocumented students and tagged , , , on by .

About Kathryn Baron

Kathryn Baron, co-writer of TOP-Ed (Thoughts On Public Education in California), has been covering education in California for about 15 years; most of that time at KQED Public Radio where her reports aired on The California Report as well as various National Public Radio programs. She also wrote for magazines and newspapers before going virtual as producer and editor at The George Lucas Educational Foundation. Kathy grew up in New York in a family of teachers. She moved to California for graduate school and after spending one sunny New Year’s Day riding her bicycle in the foothills, decided to stay. She and her husband live in Belmont. They have two children, one in college and one in high school.

7 thoughts on “Gov. Brown signs Dream Act – Part 1

  1. Pat

    It is more affordable for illegal people to attend colleges and universities in their country of origin. California is already financially broken because of too many entitlement programs. The special funds and scholarships should be only for citizens of the United States. Citizenship should be a requirement for all people in order to partake of the educational financial benefits offered.

    This is a serious manner when thousands of californians are not eligble to participate in the programs because they are not illegal people.

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  2. edfundwonk

    Those who claim that AB 130 has no impact on the amount of financial aid available for legal citizen residents of California are sadly mistaken. UC’s financial aid has always been funded from a mix of public and private sources. Private sources include alumni donations and even the 1/3 of tuition revenues that UC sets aside for financial aid. For practical purposes, the source of funds — public or private — is irrelevant.  There is a single “pot” of money available for financial aid. The distribution of aid from this pot is a zero-sum game. Aid awarded one student is aid denied another.

    Before AB 130, only legal citizen residents were eligible for aid from this pot. Now illegal immigrants are eligible, provided that the total aid awarded them doesn’t exceed the amount in the pot that was funded from non-governmental sources. Clearly, any financial aid awarded illegal immigrants access must reduce the amount of aid available for legal California residents on an equal dollar-for-dollar basis.

    Even if illegal immigrants’ eligibility was limited to new (i.e., increased) privately funded aid — which it is not — aid provided legitimate citizen residents could decrease. This is because the size of the financial aid pot is determined by UC. If private donations increased, there would be nothing to stop UC from keeping the pot the same by reducing the amount of tuition revenue redirected to aid and using the freed up funds to mitigate the impact of budget cuts in other areas.

    It must be noted that, although the California Supreme Court held that California’s statute that granted eligibility for lower in-state tuition rates to, among others, illegal immigrants, did not violate federal law, there is nothing in the decision that requires the state to do so. All it takes is an act of the Legislature to repeal this law and return to the status quo ante. 

    In fact, one can make a reasonable case that Congress intended to prevent — or strongly deter –states from granting in-state tuition rates, financial aid, and other benefits to illegal immigrants. Specifically, 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 US citizen or national is eligible for such benefit without regard to whether he is a resident.” (8 USC 1623, emphasis added) In other words, if an illegal immigrant is eligible for lower, resident tuition based on the fact that he’s a state resident, the state has to make every other US citizen or national eligible for the resident tuition rate.

    It’s doubtful that Congress foresaw that a state might circumvent this deterrent by granting resident tuition rates based on criteria that included all state residents, regardless of citizenship status, and — as a practical matter — excluded virtually every non-state resident. Yet, this is precisely what the Legislature did in adopting three criteria governing eligibility for resident (in-state) tuition: (1) attend a California HS for three years, (2) graduate from a California HS, and,  in the case of illegal immigrants (3), file a declaration that he or she has applied — or intends to apply — for citizenship.

    Although highly correlated with residency, the criteria are not specifically residency-based. To prove this point, proponents gave an example – possible but highly unlikely — of a non-resident who attended and graduated from a California boarding school. The California Supreme Court agreed and, on this basis, held that our state law did not violate the federal 8 USC 1623. It would also be legal, however, to limit eligibility for resident tuition rates and state university-administered financial aid to citizen residents of California and exclude illegal immigrants.

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  3. edfundwonk


    There is a difference between declining to hear an appeal from the California Supreme Court decision in Martinez and “upholding” the decision. The US Supreme Court has many more cases filed than it can hear; it is not unusual for the Court to decline to hear one. Although, as a practical matter, the Court’s action leaves the California Supreme Court’s decision intact, it does not imply that it agrees or disagrees with that decision.

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  4. edfundwonk

    I need to correct part of my example. The redirected tuition funds would not be included, as they were not provided for the purposes of scholarships. As I read the legislation, however, it includes alumni contributions that were donated for the purposes of scholarships and does not limit the scholarships to those that are funded in their entirety by a single private donor.

    “…eligible to receive a scholarship that is derived from nonstate funds received, for the purpose of scholarships, by the segment at which he or she is a student.”

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  5. Kathy Baron

    Since the language is confusing and I don’t want incorrect information on this post, I asked the University of California to clarify how AB 130 (and 131 should it become law), will be implemented.  Here is the response:

    AB 130 is a narrow bill designed to have no impact on the State budget and minimum impact on other students.  It allows the University to award UC gifts and endowments designated for scholarships by the donor to the estimated 500-650 undocumented students who are eligible for AB 540 (about two-thirds of the undocumented students currently attending UC).
    The effective date is January 1, 2012.  However, most campuses have already fully committed these funds for the 2011-12 year; thus undocumented students are not likely to start receiving these funds until the 2012-13 year.  (UC Berkeley is an exception and may start awarding some funds in spring semester.)
    AB 130 means that UC campuses will be able to resume making scholarship awards from these funds to AB 540 undocumented students as they did prior to 1996 when federal law (the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act) prohibited undocumented students from receiving any awards from University funds.  Campuses generally use scholarship funds from gifts and endowments to enhance the aid packages of individual students who meet the academic and other criteria for the awards.  These funds are not used to meet the University’s basic systemwide commitment to provide financial access to all students.  Thus they will not backfill for the federal, state, and UC funds for which undocumented students will continue to be ineligible (UC Berkeley is again somewhat of an exception.)
    Approximately $46 million of scholarships were awarded to all UC undergraduates from gifts and endowments in 2009-10.  The average award was about $3,500 but varied considerably across students, depending on campus policies and the terms of the fund.  With AB 540 undocumented students representing less than 0.5% of UC students, they will likely end up receiving a similarly small percentage of the scholarship funds (perhaps $200,000 to $300,000).
    However, AB 130 also means that UC will be able to seek and award private donations that are specifically designated for scholarships for AB 540 undocumented students.  This new ability to raise funds for undocumented students could have a bigger impact than making undocumented student eligible to compete for already existing gifts and endowments that are open to other students.
    What Does AB 131 Mean for UC
    AB 131 is a much more significant bill which would make all AB 540 students, including those who are undocumented, eligible for Cal Grant entitlement awards and make undocumented AB 540 students eligible for awards from other institutional aid funds, including tuition and fee revenue (e.g., UC’s aid program from “return-to-aid” that funds UC’s systemwide minimum commitment to financial aid for all undergraduates).  Because this bill will require significant additional Cal Grant funds for AB 540 students in all segments, it is designed to go into effect for 2013-14 to avoid an immediate impact on the State’s budget.
    AB 131 would mean that UC could resume making awards from all UC funds to AB 540 undocumented students as we did prior to the federal prohibition.  The “backfill” question will be relevant.  Under our current policies, UC does “backfill” for any state or federal aid for which students are ineligible if the student needs the grant assistance under the University’s minimum commitment to financial accessibility.  Thus unless UC were to change its policy, undocumented students would receive equivalent aid packages to other needy students with the implementation of AB 131.

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  6. Pingback: California’s first-class Dreamers | Thoughts on Public Education

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