Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

California Dream Act clears the Senate - what's next?

A student activist's t-shirt, March 2011
A student activist's t-shirt, March 2011
Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

The second of two bills making up the California Dream Act is one step closer to being signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown. The bill known as AB 131, which would give undocumented college students access to state-funded financial aid, cleared the state Senate 22-11 today, UC Berkeley's Daily Californian reports.

It now goes back to the Assembly for approval of amendments made in the Senate. The bill will likely be signed if it reaches the governor's desk, as Brown has already indicated his support.

But AB 131 still faces challenges. Its companion bill AB 130, signed into law last month, will allow undocumented college students access to privately-funded scholarships and grants not available to them before. AB 131, on the other hand, would allow them to receive the same state-funded tuition aid programs available to U.S. citizens and legal residents, a costlier proposition that has drawn more controversy than the previous bill.

The measure has come far enough in a tough state economic climate. Implementing AB 131 could cost anywhere between $22 million and $42 million, according to office of Assembly member Gil Cedillo, who sponsored the bill, although roughly $13 million of that would come from money already set aside for low-income students whose grades qualify them for CalGrants. Opponents say they don’t wish to spend state funds on educating undocumented students, especially if their immigration status prevents them from fully using their degrees.

Unlike the federal Development, Relief and Education of Minors (DREAM) Act, the California bills don't propose granting legal status to students. Undocumented immigrants in California qualify for in-state tuition if they meet residency requirements, but they are presently barred from receiving public tuition aid, as other students can. As an alternative, many work multiple jobs while spreading out their education over several years.