Governor Jerry Brown of California on Monday signed into law one part of the California DREAM Act, drawing praise for keeping his word.
AB 130 allows undocumented students attending California state universities to apply for financial aid funded by the private sector. Previously, there were three attempts to pass bills similar to AB 130 but they all failed. The bill becomes active January 1, 2012.
The second part of the bill, AB 131, is still in the Senate. This part would allow undocumented students to apply for state financial aid. Brown has hinted, according to the LA Times, that he will likely back this more controversial bill if it comes across his desk.
California’s DREAM Act is different from the same-name federal act in that it does not provide a path to citizenship. The federal act failed to get enough votes in the Senate last year.
Former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed several versions of the California DREAM Act last year.
The bill was authored by state Democratic Assemblyman Gilbert Cedillo from Los Angeles. It was passed by the state Senate on July 14 and is now considered officially law.
"Today, signing this Dream Act is another piece of investment in people, because people are what drives the culture, the economy, the state and our country," Brown said, using Cedillo's back instead of a table as the surface on which he signed the bill.
“I know where the future is … it’s in the minds of people,” the governor stated. “Anything that’s going to advance the cause of our people whatever their background, their color, their religion, their political philosophy, all of that is secondary to the fact that we’re Californians together, there’s a dream and that dream is fulfilled by the human imagination nurtured in schools but also nurtured in neighborhoods.”
Father Richard Estrada of Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church called it a day of joy and hope as he gave the invocation before the signing of the law.
“Blessed be the children of immigrants who give us hope today, hope for the future,” he prayed. “We pray that our children … be free to pursue their educational pursuits. May they give their God-given talents for the good of all people.”
Estrada also prayed that the hearts and minds of those who oppose the DREAM Act would be opened.
Opponents of AB 131, the second part of the act, insist that by providing state aid to undocumented students when the state is currently facing a $10 billion deficit is irresponsible.
Many also argue that current immigration laws would hinder, if not prevent, employers from hiring students that would benefit from the act, according to the Daily Californian.
"I'm committed to expanding opportunity wherever I can find it, and certainly these kinds of bills promote a goal of a more inclusive California and a more educated California," Brown told reporters after he signed the bill, according to the LA Times.
Not everyone is thrilled about the passage. Opponents say the law would lessen opportunities for U.S. students.
"Obviously it falls into a different realm when the money is coming out of private pockets than it does when it's coming out of taxpayers' pockets," said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that advocates halting illegal immigration, as reported by the LA Times.
"But nevertheless, foundations and other institutions that get tax exemptions should not be promoting policies that encourage people to remain illegally in the United States."
Cedillo, who commended the governor for holding firm to his commitment despite the measure being unpopular, reminded the public on Monday that the measure is about the children.
“This is about the children, … about us as parents and the hopes and aspirations that all of us have for our children,” he stated, as he touted himself as the result of a great public education. “Education is for life.”