California Assembly approves bill that OKs college aid for illegal immigrants

State Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, calls on lawmakers to approve his proposed resolution calling on California to begin an economic boycott of Arizona over its controversial immigration law, at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, June 23, 2010.
State Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, calls on lawmakers to approve his proposed resolution calling on California to begin an economic boycott of Arizona over its controversial immigration law, at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, June 23, 2010. AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

College students who entered the country illegally appear closer than ever to receiving financial aid in California.

On a party-line vote of 51-21, the state Assembly approved a bill Thursday that allows those students to collect privately funded college scholarships.

Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, a Democrat from Los Angeles and the author of AB130, has introduced a similar bill every year since 2005. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, vetoed the legislation repeatedly. But with a Democrat now in the governor's office, the bill has greater odds of becoming law.

Cedillo said students should not be punished because their parents brought them into the country illegally.

"Undocumented immigrants, in fact, do have rights, and it's a lie that they don't," Cedillo said.

He named his bill the California Dream Act, but unlike the federal Dream Act, it does not include a path to citizenship.

The bill affects students who are in the country illegally but paying in-state tuition. It allows them to collect college scholarships that are not funded by public dollars. Another bill by Cedillo, still in committee, would make those students eligible for state-funded financial aid.

Republicans said the legislation diverts resources from citizens, contradicts laws that prevent employers from hiring those students after they graduate, and invites illegal immigration.

"If I were a father in a war-torn country to the south of us, and I couldn't feed my children, and I had no way to pay for their education, I'd be tempted to come here," said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks. He founded the state's largest chapter of the Minuteman Project, which privately patrols the border for illegal immigrants.

AB130 heads to the Senate.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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