CaliforniaAggie: Senate debates immigrant-friendly AB131

By Kimberly Law

  • Currently, only U.S. citizens and legal residents can obtain financial aid for college
  • The California bill AB 131 would grant qualified undocumented students financial aid
  • The bill is in addition to AB 540 which gives qualified undocumented students in-state tuition

If passed in the Senate, a recent California bill would grant qualified undocumented students financial aid.

On May 27, the State Assembly passed AB 131 by a vote of 46-25; the legislation is now waiting a vote in the Senate. It comes as an addition to AB 540, which allows these students to pay in-state tuition. On June 6, the Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to AB 540.

Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) authored AB 131, which allows “students provided in-state tuition under AB 540 to also participate in financial aid programs,” said Scott Lay, president and CEO of the Community College League of California, in an e-mail interview.

The bill would exempt a student who has graduated or attended a California high school for three or more years from paying nonresident tuition at public colleges in California.

“California law provides in-state tuition to a limited groups of students who graduate from California high school but aren’t citizens,” Lay said.

Antonio R. Flores, president and CEO of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HAUC), said the importance of AB 131 is that it would provide undocumented students with financial aid.

“We recognize that AB 540 allowed many of these students some access to higher education,” Flores said in an e-mail interview. “But unless financial aid is a possibility, most of these students are unable to afford completing a degree, particularly at four-year colleges.”

The federal Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, (DREAM Act) was created in 2011 to enact changes in our nation’s citizenship law. Although the federal DREAM Act did not pass this year, people are still advocating for the changes.

HAUC is more of an advocate of the federal DREAM Act.

“[It] would not only clear up the right of states to provide in-state tuition and financial aid, but would also create a pathway to citizenship, and allow these students to become full participants in the economy,” Flores said.

The National Immigration Law Center (NILC)’s DREAM Act Summary states two major changes:  the first is to allow some undocumented students “who have grown up in the U.S. to apply for temporary legal status and to eventually obtain permanent legal status and become eligible for U.S. citizenship if they go to college or serve in the U.S. military.”

The second goal is to “eliminate a federal provision that penalizes states that provide in-state tuition without regard to immigration status.”

Furthermore, most undocumented students that come to America are “brought here as children, who have grown up here, who have gone to our schools” said Joshua Bernstein, the immigration director of the Service Employees International Union, in C-Span’s “Washington Journal” on May 21.

Bernstein said it is not the undocumented students’ fault for being brought to America. However, the majority of callers to the program believe that undocumented students should not obtain citizenship–rather they should be deported or given some kind of punishment.

Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin also offer financial aid for undocumented students.

KIMBERLY LAW can be reached city@theaggie.org.

Related Links:

Southern California Public Radio: http://multiamerican.scpr.org/tag/ab-131/
African Community Newspaper: http://www.mshale.com/printFriendlyPDF/articlePDF/18664.pdf
Phoenix New Times: http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/bastard/2011/07/california_governor_jerry_brow.php
DREAM Act info: http://dreamact.info/

 

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