How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Awkward undocumented moments, dramatized (Video)

How awkward is it to run into a former classmate after college when he spots you working as a hotel janitor because you don't have papers? Very awkward, as dramatized in this tragicomic skit, part of a series of videos titled "Undocumented and Awkward" by a student activist group called Dreamers Adrift. An earlier video follows a guy who can't get into a bar to meet a date.

The group advocates for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would grant conditional legal status to undocumented young people brought to the U.S. under age 16 if they attend college or join the military. The fact that undocumented college grads are hard-pressed to fully utilize their degrees for lack of legal status was also one of the sticking points brought up by opponents of the controversial California Dream Act, legislation recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown that makes it easier for undocumented students to pay for college.

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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:

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Brown: Yes to California Dream Act, no to race and gender in college admissions

Photo by sea turtle/Flickr (Creative Commons)


While most of the attention was on the California Dream Act yesterday as today's bill-signing deadline loomed, a lesser-known but equally controversial California bill involving students of color met with a thumbs-down from Gov. Jerry Brown.

The bill, SB 185, would have allowed state universities to consider race, gender, ethnicity, and national origin in undergraduate and graduate admissions, provisions that were seen by some as conflicting with Proposition 209, a 1996 state initiative that prohibited the use of affirmative action in public institutions.

UC Berkeley's Daily Californian quoted from a message sent by Brown to state Senate members yesterday after he vetoed the bill:

"Signing this bill is unlikely to impact how Proposition 209 is ultimately interpreted by the courts; it will just encourage the 209 advocates to file more costly and confusing lawsuits,” he wrote in the message.

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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? http://ow.ly/6RvwZ #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.



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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.

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