DREAM Act reform relies on students

Oscar Garcia, a sophomore majoring in psychology who  transferred to USC this semester,  is one of a very small number of undocumented students on campus.

And, as he put it during a panel Monday night about the federal Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, that is unacceptable.

The collective student action that has been taken to confront the structural barriers undocumented students face in today’s educational system demonstrates the importance of the act.

The DREAM Act is well known as the federal bill that would provide undocumented immigrants access to higher education and, eventually, legal citizenship. The federal bill failed to pass the Senate in December.

Lesser known is California’s version of the DREAM Act, which was first introduced in 2006 and addresses the inequalities undocumented students currently face in California.

The California DREAM Act is split into two parts, AB 130 and AB 131, in response to those who don’t agree with spending state dollars on illegal immigrants. AB 130 offers the students access to grants and aid administered by colleges, and would not cost the state a penny. AB 131, however,  would allow undocumented students to apply for state-funded Cal Grants.

If the California DREAM Act passes, undocumented students who graduate from California high schools will be able to access financial aid at  public institutions.

For undocumented students at USC, passage of the California bill might prompt university officials to offer similar access to aid in the form of grants and scholarships.  Such action would be a critical first step for students at private colleges struggling to pay much higher tuition.

Students have a wide variety of opinions about illegal immigration, the issue at the core of the DREAM Act. But what we can agree on is that bringing the act to the state level gives students more of a collective voice.

The action California students have taken in support of the DREAM Act is exciting, inspiring and necessary to propel the act forward.

This month, the UC Student Association gave out thousands of postcards addressed to Gov. Jerry Brown asking him to sign the bill into law this year. The organization hopes to collect 10,000 postcards signed by UC students and then deliver them to Sacramento. UCLA collected 500 postcards on the first day alone.

Here at USC, Garcia recently created the Organization for Undocumented Student Issues, a support and advocacy group for undocumented students. He spoke about the need for such a group at the event Monday evening, which was put on by the Latino, Black, and Political Student Assemblies as well as Improving Dreams, Equality, Access and Success (IDEAS),  a support network for undocumented students at UCLA.

Such demonstrations of student initiative indicate the potential power students hold to take the next step forward.

Since its creation in 2006, the California DREAM Act has been introduced, passed and then vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a total of three times. Brown, however, has voiced support for the act.

In light of this, and the current surge of student activism, maybe the fourth time is the charm.

Elena Kadvany is a junior majoring in Spanish.

17 replies
  1. justsayn
    justsayn says:

    By the way, how do undocumented students and illegal immigrants add to the “pool” when they legally do have a social security number and are “undocumented”? Is it because they steal social security numbers from people who are deceased?? Tell me, this law abiding taxpayer, how this is possible?? Are they breaking another law to add to the “pool” and to buy clothes, etc.? How many other laws do they break that goes unnoticed for the pursuit of a higher education and to live in California? Tell me more.

  2. justsayn
    justsayn says:

    This is about law abiding taxpayers protecting the dreams of their children who are citizens who have paid taxes for possibly generations in California. We want the DREAM saved for our children. What right do you have to feel entitled when our country is suffering from an economic crisis with Californians suffering from high unemployment. These families who are taxpayers are struggling to send their children to college becaue they pay taxes and report incomes to FAFSA. Why cut the budgets to California colleges and then turn around and give financial aid to undocumented students. This increases tuition for students. California taxpayers and students speak out against the DREAM Act.

    • unknown
      unknown says:

      its saddening what people say now a days, to many i am the innocent, i am merely a teenager, as soon as you read i am a “child” you will stop reading, but don’t. America is known for freedom and DREAMS, i am legally here for those of you wondering, and yet i still see no reason why you would want everyone who isn’t quite “legal” to leave. Honestly i do not understand the reasons, and i know i know, i do not pay taxes yet and i will in a while, but i have read many articles and have come to the conclusion that has remained the same! If you people are concerned in paying for “illegals” college your not, in the end it turns out that out of your own pocket you gave, lets see no more than a $1.00, yea they’ll be thanking you for that. If you where in their situation, wouldn’t you want support, i mean those who apply for the dream act have to acquire certain criteria. They are no criminals; most of them where brought here as very young children, they didn’t really have the choice. I have to agree with educate yourself. Anyway we are all immigrants, our ancestors traveled here for the exact same reason everyone else is. So whats the positive side, its going to help America’s debt, and the dropout rates will decrease. Shouldn’t we all have the same rights? Or are we heading back to the same thing? I mean they do say history repeats itself, and I’ve heard some scary stories…

      Oscar Garcia, i hope the best for you and wish you to obtain the support from others, i know i can not do much, but expressing myself is something, i give you the credit for speaking out, something to admire.

  3. EducateYourself
    EducateYourself says:

    It is always going to be a blame game for the mismanagement of this country and exploitation of others. It’s all cause and effect. Open your eyes people! There’s this thing called GLOBALIZATION and if the United States didn’t want to be “burdened” they shouldn’t have taken the lead. Undocumented people in this country are for the most part paying taxes–taxes from which they don’t receive a cent back. So sorry to break it to you, undocumented people do pitch in to this pool of money. Even with purchases like groceries & clothing, they’re contributing to the economy. Allowing them to legalize their status would bring in a large amount of money as well in lawyers, paperwork and fees. It would also ensure that EVERYONE pays their taxes.

    Keep your head up Oscar Garcia. Mad props for speaking out and being unafraid at SC.

  4. dntworry
    dntworry says:

    Keep hating hater. The cause will pass and this is an investment in long term, California will make 100x the profit when the undocumented students graduate! Get education before hating on other peoples rights. Google up Texas Dream Act, it has already passed and Texas is more republican state than California. Californians are freakin H.A.T.E.R.S.. like how Govana was last year.

  5. billjohn
    billjohn says:

    I know the government is perfectly capable of ridding the country of these scumbags. I don’t care where they come from. they are unamerican, just like their parents. They should be locked up for life, through the expense of their home country.

  6. justsayn
    justsayn says:

    Students who are citizens against ab 130 and 131 stand up and voice your opinion. If you don’t and these bills pass, you will be competing for financial aid from undocumented students who do not report income to FAFSA and in effect would take priority receiving financial aid. Another impact of giving financial aid is creating a huge incentive for undocumented students to attend our colleges thereby taking seats away from citizens! We don’t have space in our colleges to fund education for illegals! Do we really want to fund collleges which will end up educating undocumented students and paying for it as well instead of US citizens who would be second in priority! This is absolutely absurd! Brown is going to cut the college budgets which means higher tuition and possibly close a couple of campuses. Make college affordable for US citizens. California and US citizens wake up to this nonsense and speak up!

      • tommy
        tommy says:

        Or better yet – let’s have schools give money to people who aren’t here legaally – when they could give it to someone who is.
        This whole DREAM Act makes me ill.

  7. Jax4usc
    Jax4usc says:

    Elena Kadvany is a junior majoring in Spanish.


    Just what is it about the word, “illegal” that you don’t understand?

    Journ, ’58

  8. Jose Lopez
    Jose Lopez says:

    This country is for free legal immigrants and native born only. I am a legal Mexican American and I know it is wrong for any race to illegally come here. Their kids should not be citizens either. Come on think if you came to Mexico, and had your kids there, do you think your kids would be called a Mexican or given Mexican birth certificate. NO! It is sad to watch so many illegal’s try to fraud this system. The simple facts are if they did not pay and wait like I did, then they should be deported to where ever they came from. Tell me if they get amnesty will I get my refund. Most legal American Latinos do not support this unless they have illegal relatives in their homes. I bet we should check all that voted for this Dream Act and you would see they are the criminals who are trying to cheat this system. How could we watch so many schools get closed and teachers getting fired, while we give free health care and WIC to these illegal people. It is sad because Americans like myself can’t even get freebies but so many of these illegals are, it makes me want to say I don’t have a SSN or instead of filling out a job application I should just say I’m illegal. Then I get the job even though it’s not a high wage I’m still getting paid right. Think long and hard mi familia. We don’t want America to become Mexico and then no one has a future but to watch drug cartels kill and kidnap our kids for ransom everyday. I say remove every illegal and california will not have to day 600 million dollars in WIC to illegals.

    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      What? You have to be kidding. Illegals already get way too many government freebies (WIC, Section 8, Medi-Cal, Free School and school Lunches, etc.). Which is one reason why California is in the hole. Why are hard working Americans being force to foot yet another bill for someone who is here illegally? Most middle class Americans don’t qualify for any financial aid, but an illegal like this Mr. Garcia will likely qualify because illegals often do not report or report very little of what they make, so they almost always qualify for these grants. Yet, hard working middle class American families are forced to get loans and get in debt to fund their kids’ education. When is enough, enough? Where the hell did these people get such sense of entitlement? Why do they think we are obligated to give them give them, give them? If you go to Mexico illegally, you get deported (if not raped, killed or held for ransom) and you sure as hell aren’t getting any free housing, free education, free food stamps, or free anything anything. Or in any other country for that matter. I lived this France last summer, there, the police randomly goes around in the subway asking for papers to prove you are there legally, if you don’t have them, you get arrested and deported. I was shocked. And they complain about Arizona? At least Arizona only asks for papers if you are stopped for breaking the law. No wonder the world thinks we are stupid and no wonder everyone wants to come here.

  9. Peter Lam
    Peter Lam says:

    Something is really wrong with California when it is 30 billion dollars in the hole and yet can find money to spend state dollars on illegal immigrants.

  10. Diane
    Diane says:

    Why is Garcia not being deported if he is openly admitting that he is here in violation of the law? How DARE he attempt to advocate for more lawbreakers. That’s appalling.

  11. Alexis
    Alexis says:

    Garcia says it’s “unacceptable” that he is one of a very small number of undocumented students on campus. So, it’s acceptable that he’s taking a slot, using taxpayer dollars (in his grants/scholarships), that a qualified American student citizen will not be eligible to receive? It sounds to me like rewarding those who break the law. AJ

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