DREAM Act-Lite Becomes California Law

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California Governor Jerry Brown did as promised during his 2010 gubernatorial campaign and signed his state's version of the DREAM Act on Monday.

Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, a Democrat from Los Angeles and author of the bill, has championed the pro-immigrant legislation since 2005. 

But ex-California governor and Guatemalan-immigrant-housekeeper-impregnator Arnold Schwarzenegger kept vetoing the bill.

The state's DREAM Act does not legalize an undocumented student's immigration status, but is more of a financial-eligibility law. 

In contrast, the federal DREAM Act would create a pathway to citizenship for those who continue onto higher education or join the military.

Starting next year, undocumented students in California will be able to tap into private funds used for their education. 

So if a California university or community college has private funds for students, an undocumented student will have the right to apply for those resources.

Not every undocumented student is satisfied with this version of the DREAM Act, even though it could lighten the financial burden for some undocumented students who wish to continue onto college.

Lizbeth Mateo, a 25-year-old undocumented alumnus from California State University, calls Cedillo's bill weak sauce.

"It was so watered down," Mateo complains.
She adds that while she was in school private money was already assisting in paying for her education. In other words, this bill only ensures that it is legal to fund an undocumented student's education with private funds.

In California undocumented students are allowed to pay in-state tuition, but are barred from state-funded scholarships.

"It's too soon to call it a celebration and it's too soon to call it a victory," Mateo declared.

Another piece of legislation, Assembly Bill 131 was cut from the one signed into law Monday, making it a separate proposal. It is still awaiting a vote in California's Legislature. 

"The real meat of the bill was removed," Mateo said.

AB 131 would allow undocumented students to apply for state-funded scholarships, essentially securing financial assistance for most low-income undocumented college students.

"That's the [real] bill that [activists] have been advocating for," Mateo explains. 

Arizona state Representative Catherine Miranda, a Phoenix Democrat, who attended the signing of the bill in California at her friend Cedillo's invitation, says that it's still an accomplishment to pass such legislation.

Miranda called it "a start," but said she  sympathizes with California DREAMers and understands why they don't agree with the bills being broken into two proposals.

"I can see why they would want [to pass AB 131] first," she admits.

Miranda is confident Cedillo won't let AB 131 die, considering that he's been fighting for the DREAM Act for years and promises AB 131 is next.

"From the discussions I've had [with Cedillo] it's going to pass," she assures. 

So what about an Arizona DREAM Act proposal?

"I'm definitely committed to proposing legislation like this," Miranda admits. "That's my commitment to our DREAMers... I will be proposing several [pieces of ] legislation [related to the] DREAM Act."

But considering that many Arizona politicians have been trying to rid the state of illegal immigrants, hiking tuition to purposely target them, proposing an Arizona DREAM Act may be as far as it gets in the state's Legislature.

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