How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

California Dream Act 101: What it does, who qualifies, and what happens next

Photo by un.sospiro/Flickr (Creative Commons)

On Saturday, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a landmark piece of state legislation that will allow undocumented college students to obtain publicly-funded financial aid, now only available to students who are U.S. citizens and legal residents. It's part of a two-bill package referred to as the California Dream Act, the first part of which Brown signed into law last July.

The bill signed this weekend, AB131, has been extremely divisive in a state that's undergoing a budget crisis. Opponents have said the state can't afford it; supporters have pointed out that part of the funding for the measure is already set aside annually for low-income students, including undocumented kids who have so far been unable to tap into it.

So what does the California Dream Act do, exactly? A few basics:


Tweeting the California Dream Act

The hashtag #dreamact has been trending on Twitter since Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law this morning a bill known as AB 131, which allows undocumented college students who meet state residency requirements to obtain state-funded financial aid for tuition. The bill is the second of two bills referred to as the California Dream Act, the first of which Brown signed in July.

The controversial measure has long drawn both ardent support and outrage, especially given the state's financial woes. A few recent tweets, first the happy ones:

From @sigourneynunez:

Proud to be a Californian! #dreamscometrue #DREAMAct

From @lizap:

Yes! Jerry Brown passes #DreamAct in the Golden State. Are you listening, Alabama? #p2

From @joseiswriting, aka Jose Antonio Vargas, a former Washington Post reporter who recently came out as undocumented:

Gov. brown just signed CA #DREAMAct into law. Congrats to all, especially to young CA activists #inspiration

From @48thave:

@JerryBrownGov Thank you for introducing sanity to CA immigration policy for my undocumented bros & sisters. Go, Jerry! #DreamAct

And some not-so-happy tweets:

From ruby4050:

#CA is doomed #DREAMAct Highest unemployement, lowest business prospects, highest taxes, foreclosures and now illegals!

From @jocatapi:

i guess i need to renig my US citizenship,go to mexico to get mexican citizenship, jump the border THEN my state will recognize me #DreamAct

From @VasquezMusic:

Hey, I'm Latina but I do not support the #DreamAct make the illegals LEGAL first!

And referring to Republican state Assembly member Tim Donnelly, an opponent of the measure, @davidsiders wrote:

Donnelly calls #DreamAct "biggest mistake that Gov. Brown has ever made ... other than unionizing public employees."

Until now, undocumented college students in California have been barred from public financial aid. AB 130, the companion bill to AB 131, allowed these students access to privately funded scholarships and grants only.

A recent version of AB 131 can be downloaded here.


Gov. Jerry Brown signs AB 131, second part of California Dream Act

Photo courtesy of Dream Team Los Angeles

A California Dream Act supporter's sign at an L.A. demonstration last week

It came down almost to the wire, but California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation that will allow undocumented college students in the state to obtain the same kind of publicly-funded financial aid for tuition now available to U.S. citizens and legal residents.

Late this morning, Brown signed a bill known as AB 131, the second of two bills referred to as the California Dream Act. The signing deadline was tomorrow. The Sacramento Bee published part of a statement from Brown:

"Going to college is a dream that promises intellectual excitement and creative thinking. The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us," Brown said in a prepared statement.

Both AB 131 and its companion bill, AB 130, were sponsored by Assembly member Gil Cedillo of Los Angeles, who has successfully shepherded similar measures through the legislature in the past, all met with vetoes. While Brown had expressed support for both measures, the time it took for him to sign AB 131, approved by state lawmakers at the end of August, had both supporters and opponents of the bill wondering if he'd decline to sign it.


Will the California Dream Act become law? Readers' reactions

Photo by CSU Stanislaus Photo/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A post earlier this week addressing whether or not California Gov. Jerry Brown will sign a bill making up part of what's known as the California Dream Act has generated a very long string of comments, an example of how divisive the debate over the bill has become.

The California Dream Act is composed of two measures, one already signed into law by Brown in July, the other awaiting his signature by Sunday's approval deadline. The first measure, known as AB 130, will grant undocumented college students access to privately funded scholarships and grants; the second, if it becomes law, would allow them to access the same publicly-funded financial aid that other students are able to obtain for tuition.

Part of the rub with the second bill, known as AB 131, is the money. With the state in a financial crisis, even some of those who didn't mind the first bill oppose this one. The measure could cost between $22 million and $42 million to implement, according to the office of state Assembly member Gil Cedillo, who sponsored both bills. However, roughly $13 million of that would come from money already set aside for low-income students whose grades qualify them for CalGrants.


Will Jerry Brown sign the California Dream Act's AB 131?

Photo courtesy of Dream Team Los Angeles

UCLA graduate and California Dream Act supporter Nancy Meza holds petitions in downtown Los Angeles, Wednesday, October 5, 2011

California Gov. Jerry Brown has just four days left to sign or veto a bill known as AB 131, part of what's called the California Dream Act, before a bill-signing deadline.

Brown has indicated his support in the past for the measure, which would allow undocumented students access to publicly-funded financial aid for college. But with little time left to go - and a history of similar bills being vetoed by former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger - the students who would benefit from AB 131 and immigrant advocates are increasing the pressure.

In Los Angeles, student activists organized a small demonstration downtown this morning to deliver petitions to Brown's local office. Other AB 131 supporters have been circulating petitions online and urging calls to the governor.

No word yet from Brown's office today on the likelihood that he'll decide on the bill before Friday, but a spokesman for AB 131 sponsor Gil Cedillo, a Democratic state assembly member from Los Angeles, said the governor has until Sunday.