The much talked about legislation
of Dream Act to give legal status to undocumented students in the
United States has died in the U.S. Congress, but the battle
continues on the state level.
California is among the 10 states in the U.S. where state legislators have initiated their own Dream Act and Maryland has become the first state in the country to pass the Dream Act.
However, the versions of the Dream Act at the state level are different than the federal level. While federal legislation of the Dream Act intended to grant U.S. citizenship for undocumented foreign students who have met certain requirements, state legislation of the Dream Act has no term on citizenship but it has terms to let those students pay in-state tuition or the right to apply for financial aid.
On Thursday the California State Assembly approved AB 130 ( nicknamed the "Dream Act") by a vote of 51-21; the bill is sponsored by Los Angeles Assemblyman Gil Cedillo.
The California Dream Act does not pertain to awarding legal status to undocumented students, however; AB 130 is designed to make paying for college easier for such students.
It allows for undocumented students who already meet the residency criteria for California in-state tuition to obtain scholarships that are not derived from state funds.
AB 130 is paired with AB 131, also introduced by Cedillo, that "would allow undocumented students to qualify for institutional financial aid, Cal Grants state financial aid grants and other assistance at the community college level."
The bill now goes to the state Senate. It is not sure whether the Senate could pass it, but at least it has brought new dreams for those undocumented students. People hope that now that California has a Democratic governor, it will be easy to be sign it into law once it passes the Senate.
This bill would provide that, on and after January 1, 2012, a student attending the California State University, the California Community Colleges, or the University of California who is exempt from paying nonresident tuition under the provision described above would be eligible to receive a scholarship derived from non-state funds received, for the purpose of scholarships, by the segment at which he or she is a student.
There is a big difference for a student to pay the in-state tuition or out-state tuition.
In California, there are three major public universities and colleges supported by the state, which include the California Community Colleges, California State University (CSU), and the University of California (UC).
Nonresidents, including foreign students, pay an additional 22, 717 dollars in tuition and fees at UC, 11,160 dollars at CSU, and about 180 dollars more per unit at the California Community Colleges per academic year.
In general, dependent students whose parents have been in California or independent students who have been in California more than one year are considered state residents.
AB 131, the companion bill of AB 130, would allow undocumented students to qualify for institutional financial aid, Cal Grants state financial aid grants and other assistance at the community college level.
However, there are oppositions to the California Dream Act which complain that California is facing a huge budget deficit and can not afford the legislation. State funding cuts have pushed the University of California system to ramp up its recruiting of out-of- state students and foreign students who bring in more money because they pay higher fees.
Maryland has moved one step ahead of other states on its own Dream Act. The state legislature has approved the legislation to extend in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants and Governor Martin O'Malley has pledged to sign the bill.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that in the year 2000, approximately 2.5 million undocumented youth under the age of 18 were living in the United States. This group includes large numbers of Asian Pacific Americans and Latino Americans.
So far, 10 other states have passed or are working on versions of the Dream Act, extending in-state tuition to undocumented students, including California, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
However, three states that currently offer in-state tuition -- Kansas, Nebraska and Texas -- are looking to repeal the Dream Act and are planning to join Arizona, Colorado, Georgia and South Carolina in barring undocumented immigrants from qualifying for in- state tuition rates.
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