Panel discusses implications of a federal Dream Act


A panel of experts discussed the state of the California Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act and the feasibility of the nationwide Dream Act on Monday at an event titled Undocumented Students, Unauthorized Immigrants, and the Future of America in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center, hosted by the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics.

The California Dream Act, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October, aims to make financial aid available to undocumented college students.

Debate · Jonathan Wilcox (left), speechwriter for former Calif. Gov. Peter Wilson, argued against a federal Dream Act at a panel hosted by the Jesse M. Unruh Institute in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center on Tuesday. - Matthew Wunderlich | Daily Trojan

The panel, moderated by Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute, discussed the financial and moral implications of providing financial aid to undocumented individuals hoping to pursue higher education.

“The Dream Act is about citizenship and equalization of funding opportunities to higher education,” said panelist Jonathan Wilcox, a speechwriter for former Calif. Gov. Pete Wilson.

The panel focused on the financial restraints the Dream Act could place on the government, the legality of the Dream Act and immigration reform.

Wilcox said the California Dream Act diverts funding away from other government-funded programs, which should be a higher priority.

“Every dollar that a state spends on one thing is one dollar less that it has to spend on something else,” Wilcox said.  “Are you harming [undocumented students] by denying them other opportunities?”

Luis Alvarado, former senior advisor for Meg Whitman’s California gubernatorial campaign, said the Dream Act raises more than just financial issues.

“These are morality issues,” Alvarado said. “Should there be government help in which the government is an accumulation of all of the resources of a community?”

Undocumented immigrants are presently contributing to the American economy through taxes but are still being denied access to financial aid opportunities funded by taxes, said William Perez, associate professor of education at Claremont Graduate University and author of We ARE Americans: Undocumented Students Pursuing the American Dream.

“When we talk about whether we can afford it, we have to understand that undocumented workers are already contributing,” Perez said.

Perez said that with a high school diploma being a less valuable degree than it was 30 years ago, a college degree is a necessity for financial success in the United States today and that by denying students opportunities to pursue scholarships and funding, the government would be limiting the chances of success for undocumented college students.

“If we don’t give kids access, we give them a literal disability, because they can’t function in society,” Perez said.

Michael Varela, chairperson for Improving Dreams, Education, Access and Success Movement at USC, said with the growing number of minorities in the United States, it is only a matter of time before a federal Dream Act is passed.

“This [Dream Act] is a vibrant, political, economic and moral issue that all USC students should discuss and ask questions about,” Suro said.

Schnur said if students want to make an impact on the passage of a federal Dream Act, they need to get involved in the government.

“Protesting is noble, rallying is moving, but if you want to get something done for a cause like this, the way to do it is to get inside the gate. All ralliers are making their voice heard, but if you’re making change, you have to be inside the doors and make something happen,” Schnur said.

  • GTFO of here with that nonsense

    “Perez said that with a high school diploma being a less valuable degree than it was 30 years ago, a college degree is a necessity for financial success in the United States today…”

    Are you serious?..Because that’s not true. The part that’s not true is about the college degree. These idiots who try to disseminate this notion of “college = sureshot to upward mobility” are so delusional. It depends on many things such as: One’s degree, whether it’s a WEAK, FUTILE, and worst of all, academically easy degree vs. a rigorous, competitive degree; the economy; which industry is seeking new hires, and so forth. That is SO DUMB to rashly think “college degree = guarantee.”

    A blue collar person with vocational training usually fares much better, economically, than most college graduates THESE DAYS.

    • Christian

      Yeah cause there’s ton of “vocational training” at such a low cost and there’s hundreds of employers giving living wage positions with good benefits and positive long term benefits at that job. look at the big picture buddy boy

    • Mike V

      Those are some bold statements. Maybe you should have attended the discussion or, if you WERE there, you should have spoken up. I would have loved for some more opposition from the student audience because, even though the sun had gone down when the event began, you would have been schooled thoroughly.

      Furthermore, I would love to see the sources for your statements or better yet, the research you have conducted to come to these conclusions, because let me tell you, both Professor Suro and Dr. William Perez have done plenty of it and they can support their statements with both qualitative and quantitative data.

      I may not be an expert but from experience I can tell you that even if, and that’s a HUGE if, your statement on the value of vocational training were true, the adult schools and community colleges that offer these services are seeing huge cuts to their budgets and 1) classes are underfunded and 2) space is even more limited than before. The attacks on the upward mobility of all are only increasing as this recession continues and it is going to take compassionate policies such as the DREAM Act to rectify long-seated and recently imposed disadvantages to those who cannot outright pay for all the services and education that they need.

      In ending, I would like you to know that this reply was not a personal attack on yourself. I am certain that you are a bright individual. It is the state of mind and lack of factual information of dissenters that I chose to address. I can only hope that if you are truly interested in such issues and public policies that you take the time to access information from multiple sources in order to form an educated opinion.

      Fight On!

  • Christian

    @ Mike V, what really went down? Is there a recording of it on YT?

    • Mike V

      There shouldn’t be a video recording on YouTube, it was a small room and I would have noticed someone recording the event all the way from the panel. I did, however, use the voice recorder on my iPhone to record the entire event and am still figuring out how to email it to interested individuals (I dabbled with DropSend today and am waiting to hear if it has worked for those who I sent it to).

      As for what really went down, every individual on that panel was fully represented by this article. I was on the proponent side of the issue and even I will say that the opposition members’ messages suffered in this article — although they focused on the financial aspect, a common go-to argument, they did make other relevant points. However, I am not completely surprised by the DT’s treatment of the event. The DT has not given the issue great coverage in the last couple years and the best piece that has made print was a Letter to the Editor that IDEAS Movement at USC (the main organizer behind Tuesday’s event) submitted themselves (which was tucked away in that day’s issue.

      The goal of this event, as part of Program Board’s school-wide EdMonth initiative, was to bring in both sides of the issue and have an inclusive conversation. I am happy to say that this was achieved and many in attendance congratulated us for having put on, as one USC administrator frankly put it, “one of the best SC programs I’ve seen [because] there [were] some great debates between panelist, wonderful questions raised by students and all this resulted in thought provoking dialogue afterwards.”

      The key difference hear being DIALOGUE. Look forward to more of this from IDEAS Movement at USC: https://www.facebook.com/groups/284671061546280/

  • Mike V

    Regrettably, this article does not do justice to the depth of the debate last night and it missed a few key points while misrepresenting others. The DT stumbles again.