California's Dream Act passes key test
Lawmakers in Sacramento have until next month to approve a measure known as the California Dream Act. AB 131, as the bill is known, would allow undocumented immigrant students to apply for some $38 million in state grants and other assistance.
If approved by the full Senate, the measure would go to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk for approval. Last month Brown signed a bill that allows undocumented immigrants to compete for private scholarships at state colleges and universities.
Critics say AB 131 will only attract more illegal immigrants to the U.S. Others argue that given the state's bleak economic picture, California shouldn't be providing financial assistance to undocumented immigrants. It’s true that the state colleges and universities are struggling and accepting more out-of-state and foreign students to help offset the economic downturn.
But making it harder for undocumented immigrant students to go to college isn’t going to help ease the current economic hardships faced by the state. It will, however, have a long term cost by creating a permanent underclass. Moreover, California has already invested in these students, most of whom attended public high schools.
Ensuring all students get a college education makes long term economic sense. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, projections to "2025 suggest the economy will continue to need more and more highly educated workers, but that the state will not be able to meet that demand. If current trends persist, only 35% of working-age adults in California will have a college degree in 2025, but 41% of jobs will require a degree."
Undocumented immigrants who earn a college degree could help offset the shortages. But only if they are allowed to legalize. Without federal legislation those undocumented immigrant students will remain in a kind of limbo.They will be smart, educated and stuck in the underground economy.
Photo: Student Ricardo Muniz, a Dream Act bill backer, watches as Gov. Jerry Brown signs Assemblyman Gil Cedillo's AB 130 Dream Act bill at Los Angeles City College on July 25. The bill allows access to private financial aid by undocumented students. Credit: Damian Dovarganes / AP Photo