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Part 2 of California Dream Act heads to governor's desk - will he sign?

A sign at a Los Angeles rally, August 2010
A sign at a Los Angeles rally, August 2010
Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Now that the California Assembly has approved AB 131, the second half of a package referred to as the California Dream Act, will Gov. Jerry Brown sign it into law? Brown has until Oct. 9 to sign the bill, which would provide undocumented college students with publicly-funded financial aid. The bill cleared the Assembly this afternoon 45 to 27; it was approved by the Senate last week.

Brown's spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford emailed this statement, the same sent out by the governor's office last week:

"The Governor continues to broadly support the principles behind the Dream Act and will closely consider any legislation that reaches his desk."

Brown signed a companion bill, AB 130, into law at the end of last month. Unlike AB 131, that bill only guarantees undocumented students access to privately-funded scholarships and grants. If it becomes law, AB 131 would provide these students with the same kind of state-funded tuition aid as U.S. citizen and legal resident students, such as CalGrants.

In the meantime, Assembly member Gil Cedillo, who sponsored both bills, issued a statement this afternoon:

“We thank Governor Brown for signing the first portion of the California Dream Act, AB 130 and look forward to the Governor 'Completing the Dream' by signing AB 131, the final portion of California Dream Act. By signing AB 131, the Governor will help increase the earning potential of these students, which helps all of us by contributing to our tax base and the future of our state.”

That AB 131 has cleared both houses of the state legislature is a feat in itself in this tough economic climate. The measure could cost anywhere between $22 million and $42 million, according Gil Cedillo's office, though roughly $13 million is set to come from money already set aside for low-income students whose grades qualify them for CalGrants, but who can't access it now due to their legal status. Undocumented students are presently barred from receiving public financial aid, though they do qualify for in-state tuition if they meet residency requirements under California law.

The bill has generated a firestorm of opposition, now rearing its head online. "NOOOOOO!" tweeted @KFIAM640, home of the conservative "John and Ken" talk show, this afternoon shortly after news broke that AB 131 was approved.

Opponents to the bill have complained that the cash-strapped state is better served spending the money in other ways, and that undocumented students may not be able to make good use of their degrees because their lack of status precludes them from getting the jobs they study for. Unlike the federal Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, the California Dream Act does not propose legal status for students.

Proponents, meanwhile, say the state has already spent money educating these students at taxpayer expense through high school, and preparing them to contribute to the state's economy - particularly if federal laws change to grant them legal status - is a good investment.