DREAM Act milestone for equality

Last week Gov. Jerry Brown signed the second half of the California Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act into law, which will allow undocumented college students to apply for financial aid at state universities.

The act, first introduced in 2001, has two parts: AB130 and AB131.

Rita Yeung | Daily Trojan

AB130 was signed into law in July and allows undocumented students to apply for private financial aid.

AB130, the second half signed into law last week, allows undocumented students who meet certain requirements, such as graduating from a California high school, to apply for state scholarships and financial aid. They will qualify for this aid only after all legal residents have been given the opportunity to apply.

Both aspects of the law mark a progressive and positive step for California’s educational system. Undocumented students are entitled to the same basic rights. AB130 ensures undocumented students will earn their way into college just like documented students.

Michael Varela, lead organizer of the Improving Dreams Equality Access and Success movement at USC, a support organization for undocumented students, agrees with Brown’s decision.

“For universities like USC where we have such a prodigious and constantly growing endowment, the implementation of the DREAM Act will not have any detrimental effects for any student,” Varela said in an email. “These universities may become the best option for undocumented students in their pursuit for a greater future and will probably stand out as ‘factories’ pumping out exceptional leaders in various academic fields who just so happen to be undocumented.”

The United States is a nation of immigrants built upon the ethos of the American dream: Opportunity and equal access, liberty and equality. Why, then, have the terms “undocumented” and “illegal immigrant” become synonyms for a person undeserving of the pursuit of the American dream?

For undocumented students at USC, the passage of California’s DREAM Act is a symbolic milestone in an ongoing fight for equality.

And for all the rest, there is really no harm done. The students who will benefit from the act are already in the United States and have been their entire lives. We all stand to benefit from supporting their education.

Illegal immigration has long been a hot-button issue in the United States. It is a difficult, emotive topic that has returned to center stage with the ongoing debates regarding immigrants and education in states from Alabama to California.

Education has always been a historic battleground for social justice issues. And now, the shift from a federal act to one enforced at a localized level makes it even more critical that students be educated about the Golden State’s version of the federal act of the same name.

Whether you support the DREAM Act or not, it’s key to realize this is an education issue that cannot only make or break individual lives, but the state’s future. It’s time to separate subjective bias from fact and learn about what the act actually means for all Californians.

Cal Grants are the most common route to paying for a college education in California for students who could not otherwise afford it. If students meet GPA and income requirements, they receive money from the state to pay for costs such as tuition, room and board, books or supplies. With these requirements, the state provides scholarships to those who have worked for it. The common argument that the DREAM Act is simply another government handout to an undeserving group is invalidated by these stringent provisions.

Cal Grants are the largest source of California state aid and one of the sources of greatest misunderstanding in the debate about immigrants and education. For some, it seems unfair that public money might go to individuals who aren’t legally supposed to live in the state.

The California Department of Finance, however, estimates the cost for about 2,500 students who will qualify for Cal Grants as a result of the DREAM Act — $14.5 million — only makes up 1 percent of the annual $1.4 billion Cal Grant budget. It is a minimal cost for such a monumental step for California.


Elena Kadvany is a senior majoring in Spanish. Her column “Beyond the Classroom” runs Mondays. 

14 replies
  1. Christopher Ganiere
    Christopher Ganiere says:

    Californians suffer under some of the most oppressive taxation in the United States. Higher Education is the one service that the state sells. We need to maximize the revenue for the one product we sell.

    Giving away limited numbers of tax dollars to selected students is not equality. Merit scholarships are not equal. Athletic scholarships are not equal. The only true way to achieve equality is to give every student the exact same amount of tax dollars – $0.00. Our state needs to start charging the true amount to EVERY student and stop giving away education at a discount. If education is worth what you pay for; we should not be shy in asking people to pay more now in order to receive huge returns later.

    Every school has an alumni association – these are not tax payer dollars. Private groups fund selected students – these are not tax payer dollars. Students private groups fund is none of the public’s business. When taxes go to student “A” over student “B” I have a problem.

  2. Don Honda
    Don Honda says:

    The cost of AB 131 is more like $38 Million when you add in EOPS, fee (tuition )waivers, Transfer and Institutional Grants, for the first year alone. Also, the best and the brightest is doubtful when: Community Colleges do not require a minimum GPA (EOPS and waivers), when most State financial aid only requires a GPA of 2.0 to 2.6. that’s a C or C+ to old time scholastics.

    This, along with the increased recruitment of out-of-state and Foreign Nationals who can afford the nearly double in-state tuition rate, will “price out” and “place out” Legal California Residents and Legal Immigrant Students who have seen their tuition dramatically increase, lotteries for placement, and are not eligible or have seen their financial aid reduced. AB 131 is Economic Discrimination with several lawsuits waiting in the wings.

  3. Justin
    Justin says:

    I think the Dream Act is a wonderful thing. It is certainly a beacon of hope amidst awful laws like the ones passed in Arizona and Alabama. The folks at Bashyam Spiro (http://www.bashyamspiro.com) wrote a great post about the injustice of a recent AZ immigration law which sums up how I feel about those pretty nicely.

    American or not, I think access to education is something everyone should be able to enjoy. It makes our country a better place!

    • USC alum
      USC alum says:

      But what about when that education comes at taxpayers’ expense? Illegal immigrant youths weren’t being denied educational access prior to the passage of this “DREAM Act.” They were eligible to enroll in any of California’s public educational institutions. But apparently, that wasn’t good enough for the advocates of illegal immigration. Nor was in-state (read taxpayer subsidized) tuition good enough. Oh, no. Now, California taxpayers are going to be forced to provide additional subsidies to illegal immigrants — whose eligibility for these subsidies proves that they pay only a modicum of taxes, if any.

  4. michelle
    michelle says:

    So sad that our government’s priority is the children of other nations, when we have so many children of our own to support. When will we learn to take care of our own, those who are legal, and those of our military families?

    • m1k3Vx
      m1k3Vx says:

      These ARE the children of THIS nation….don’t get it confused. Just because they were born in another country and spent a small percentage of their lifetime there, doesn’t make them any less American then you or I. Most of the students affected have spent an overwhelming large part of their lives in the U.S. and this is all they know, so the only thing that’s truly keeping them from being an American under your standards is a simple piece of paper.

  5. mIKEh
    mIKEh says:

    The Dream act is a nightmare, amnesty to provide American business with illegal labor. Read it, at a cost of 6 billion a year we can’t afford it. Nor can we afford amnesty for all families with children 12-18 in school.

    In state tuition is nothing more than paying adults for breaking our laws. At 18 a child brought here illegally has 6 months to return home and come back legally on a student visa or residency (moved to front of line). If they don’t, then they are just as illegal as their parents. Giving them in state tuition is a reward for not going home and coming back legal, they get in state tuition. Those that go home and do things legally have to pay foreign student tuition.

    “The American dream: Opportunity and equal access, liberty and equality” for all [citizens]. Why, then, have the terms “undocumented” and “illegal immigrant” become synonyms for a person undeserving of the pursuit of the American dream?”

    No one said they weren’t if they come here legally. If they don’t come legally, they are foreign citizens of another country. The American dream is difficult if your not an American.

    • Amanda
      Amanda says:

      The Dream act is a miracle! It is important to look at an act like this with a very open mind and unbiased attitude. The students themselves can not be punished for the actions of their parents. They may have gotten here illegally but it was not by their own decisions. If you think about it, Cal Grants are offered on a basis of necessity and academic qualifications. These students performed well in high school and have earned their right to financial aid!

      • ----
        ---- says:

        The Dream Act is NO miracle. It gives illegal immigrants incentive to come across our borders illegally. It’s a known fact that California is in SERIOUS financial trouble. The last thing we can afford to do is to pay for education for those who dont legally live in our state, but those who don’t legally live in our COUNTRY. I feel for those who are born in poverty stricken countries and are just looking for better lives. But, there is a policy in place to combat that: LEGAL immigration. California should be aiding those who live here legally. We just DO NOT have the finances to give away free education to all.

      • USC alum
        USC alum says:

        Please stop equating opposition to taxpayer-funded subsidies for illegal immigrants as “punishment” of the illegal immigrants, OK? Thank you.

  6. Dave Francis
    Dave Francis says:


    Whoever becomes the President of the United States needs to erect the real border fence. To facilitate the policy described in the 2006 Secure Fence Act, which is a double-layer fence for the two thousand miles, stretching through California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas festooned with razor sharp concertina wire. As an major addition placing a permanent military force on the border, to bond with the U.S. Border Agents; a requirement to assist border sheriffs, who are fighting a never ending battle against drug smugglers and people traffickers. In furtherance, the police need tools for domestic enforcement, so they can be partnered with ICE. “Secure Communities” helps the local police to identify criminal illegal aliens through fingerprints, by forwarding this identification to ICE. The 287 G is another policing program, which offers federal training in apprehending illegal aliens on the highway, such as State Troopers or Highway Patrol, who have the authority to arrest a suspicious driver and hold him for ICE agents.

    By far the greatest innovation is the “THE LEGAL WORKFORCE ACT” sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas. Every working American should demand from their Senators and the House Representatives, to vote for this bill. Commonly known as E-Verify (H.R. 2885) it will reduce the chances of millions of illegal migrants or immigrants from being hired. Unless you have a upper management job, everybody is vulnerable from a job loss. If you are lucky to have a job, you can aid the 20 million workers who are seeking employment. Under E-Verify bill business owners are not excused from severe punishment by hiring people of unauthorized status.

    Illegal immigration is no longer a minor occurrence, it’s everybody’s problem. This issue is a hundred billion dollar cost every year, extorted from your taxes annually to subsidize foreign nationals who have violated our laws. These are the pregnant women with unborn babies, who navigate past our border fence, or use the airways to enter illegally. While Americans are paying for other countries downtrodden, we cannot resuscitate our eroding infrastructure, our children’s crowded schools, underfunded hospitals and overpopulated prisons through the affliction of 20 million or more illegal aliens. The expenditure annually is an estimated $113 Billion dollars a year, as according to statistics from The hermitage Foundation.

    E-Verify is a progressive computer program and is being continuously upgraded with more innovations to detect forged ID. In conjunction with form I-9 is progression will soon be a 100 percent successful in verifying who’s eligible for a job. One new piece of software soon to be fully organized is state access to Drivers License records. Mississippi was the first state to offer there Dept of Motor vehicle services.


    NumbersUSA, the pro sovereignty, limited immigration group has aided a host of a dozen county sheriffs this week in Washington to make their pleas to Congress and ICE, in favor of all sheriffs to get more federal support in battling illegal immigration in their counties. Local and border Sheriffs are telling their stories of being over-run with trans-national drug trafficking, smuggling operations, Mexican cartels and other immigration-related crime were gripping — and also enraging that our own federal government who are so concerned about helping illegal aliens, while displaying so little enthusiasm in helping the sheriffs. Pressure your U.S. Representative to act to get a committee and floor vote on the CLEAR Act (H.R. 100). This act provides a lot of assistance to local, county and state law enforcement when they want to drive the illegal alien population out of their jurisdictions. Go to your customized website where you will locate a free fax to send to your U.S. Representative. Most of you will find a free fax that urges co-sponsorship of the bill.

    The beauty of the CLEAR Act is that it essentially requires the feds to cooperate whenever community law enforcement brings illegal aliens to their attention. While it wouldn’t stop localities from being sanctuaries or offering other enticements for illegal aliens, it would stop the current Administration’s practice of trying to stop localities from pushing illegal aliens out of their communities and would require the feds to give assistance. I cannot think of any single action that would be a more effective protest against the Obama Administration’s anti-local-enforcement efforts or a more effective single action to help our nation’s besieged sheriffs who have tended to be our best allies among the nation’s law enforcement officials. If you want to fax, go to NumbersUSA or please call 202-224-3121 and ask for your U.S. Representative’s office to urge action this fall on the CLEAR Act. This is the same Washington switchboard number to insist that your local or federal politician to push a vote on the “THE LEGAL WORKFORCE ACT”. Contact Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH); House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA); House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) ; House Chairman of Ways & Means Committee Dave Camp (R-MI);

    Other Members of the Ways & Means Committee to phone or fax for free.

    NEBRASKA, Rep. Berg, Rick (GOP) (202-225-2611) ; NEBRASKA, Rep. Smith, Adrian (GOP) (202-225-6435); LOUISIANA, Rep. Boustany, Charles (GOP) (202-225-2031); MICHIGAN, Rep. Camp, Dave (GOP) (202-225-3561) & (202-225-2031); KENTUCKY, Rep. Davis, Geoff (GOP) (202-225-3465); PENNSYLVANIA, Rep. Gerlach, Jim (GOP)(202-225-4315); KANSAS, Rep. Jenkins, Lynn (GOP)(202-225-6601); MINNESOTA, Rep. Paulsen, Erik (GOP)(202-225-2871); WASHINGTON, Rep. Reichert, Dave (GOP) (202-225-7761); WISCONSIN, Rep. Ryan, Paul (GOP) (202-225-3031) Tell these unwilling lawmakers that you are a voter and that they will be hearing from you in 2012.

    One Old Vet saying, “Stand next to me and you’ll never stand alone.”

    Remember—Don’t Steal. The Government doesn’t like competition.


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