By Yesenia Martinez
Governor Jerry Brown signed the final portion of the California Dream Act on Saturday, allowing undocumented students to apply and receive state-funded financial aid in 2013 to attend college.
In 2011, Brown signed two bills, AB 130 and AB 131, packaged as the California Dream Act. AB 130 was signed on July 25, which gives AB 540 students attending public colleges and universities the opportunity to apply and receive scholarships derived from non-state funds beginning January 1.
Under the new bill, AB 131, eligible AB 540 students will have access to state-funded college aid. This includes enrollment fee waivers, which waive the educational fees of qualifying low-income students. Cal Grants and aid administered by colleges or universities are also made available to these students, effective January 1, 2013.
However, AB 540 students will not be eligible to apply or receive Competitive Cal Grant A and B awards unless funding remains available, after resident students and U.S. Citizens have received the awards they are eligible for. Many undocumented students were brought to the United States when they were too young to even decide or understand what it meant for their education.
Why should they be punished for something they did not do? A lot of these students do not attend college because they are not able to afford it.
This new law will give those who have studied hard and have earned a spot in a college or university an opportunity to better their lives. Without financial aid or in-state tuition, it is extremely difficult for undocumented students to afford higher-education.
According to the American Immigration Council, “Almost 40 percent of undocumented children live in families below the federal poverty line, compared to just 17 percent of native-born children.”
These students are fighting for their education, while others who don’t have to go through these struggles take it for granted.
Society has already invested in these students, as most have graduated from public schools. As long as they are here, it is in society’s best interest that they become dynamic, taxpaying workers with educational credentials. Even though it is illegal to hire an undocumented person, the reality is that many are being hired illegally and they are not going to leave California.
Most of these students will not return to a place that is unknown to them. Just imagine how someone would feel if they are taken away from their home to a place they do not even remember.
Many who oppose the California Dream Act say that it is unfair to citizens, as their money is being used to fund education for undocumented students.
It is a mistake to think that no undocumented person pays taxes. Not only do many pay income taxes, they also pay for Medicare and Social Security. Obviously, they do not benefit from any of those two services.
Internal Revenue Service provides an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), for those who do are not eligible for Social Security, which helps them fulfill U.S. tax laws.
Even though California cannot promise successful students legal status, the educated are likely to find a way to gain legalization through employee sponsorship or new federal legislation. These students have dreams and goals just like everyone else.
It is unfair to not allow them to further their education.