Based only on its name, it seems foolish for anyone to oppose Senate Bill 160. Called the ‘California Dream Act,’ it has already been passed by the California State Senate and now is being considered in the State Assembly.
But for those stakeholders interested in college students attending public colleges and universities in California, students that are facing the burden of an ever-increasing cost of attendance, it would be wise to encourage the assembly to kill this one particular dream.
Introduced by State Sen. Gilbert Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), SB 160 would request the University of California and require the California State University and California Community Colleges to allow illegal immigrants to be eligible to receive state-administered financial aid, including both loans and grants.
In regard to SB 160, Cedillo said, ‘We should provide them with the mere opportunity to compete for scholarships on an equal plane with all other students in our state.’
While providing access to higher education to all persons living in California should be possible in the ideal circumstances, allowing illegal immigrant students to receive financial aid at this time is unreasonable.
With Congress divided on the illegal immigration issue, it seems unlikely that the House and Senate will reach any kind of compromise in the near future. Until the federal government clearly defines its stance on illegal immigration, the state of California should hold off on any decisions regarding the status of illegal immigrants. While the state takes pride in being the standard bearer when it comes to lawmaking, the folks in Sacramento must remember that our laws should be in tune with those in Washington (Remember what happened to the legalization of marijuana?).
Currently, the Senate is backing a more favorable stance toward illegal immigrants, and has already passed its version of a bill that would provide a way to citizenship, versus the House plan, which focuses on sealing our southern border. Before delving into any debate over financial aid, we should let Congress deal with the illegal immigration problem first and then proceed with the debate.
Granted, illegal immigrants in California should be afforded basic human needs from the state, even if they don’t pay for the services. For instance, an illegal immigrant that is suffering from a medical crisis deserves to be treated.
However, there is no right to education for illegal immigrants because it is not a basic need. While financial aid is perhaps one of only few avenues through which they can assimilate, the initial border crossing and violation of the law precludes illegal immigrants from benefiting from receiving this aid.
In addition, although there are only an estimated 1,800 illegal immigrant students in the Cal State and UC systems out of the over 600,000 that attend these campuses, providing grants and loans to these students would mean taking away the tax-generated money from the legal immigrants to those in the middle class who are entitled to those funds.
In light of tuition increases that have nearly doubled systemwide fees at the UCs since the late 1990s, it is unfair to ignore the needs of those who are here legally and struggling to attend college to help those who are here illegally. Offering financial aid to these students is akin to having them cut in front of those deserving students who are ahead of them in the line waiting for aid.
Unfortunately, the state has already begun changing the formation of that line.
It may be puzzling to some to try to understand how illegal immigrants are able to attend state colleges and universities in the first place.
That can be explained by a state law passed in 2001, Assembly Bill 540, which prevents state campuses from charging out of state fees to illegal immigrants, if they attended high school in California for three years and graduated.
But the state might not get away with it. A group of 42 non-California resident UC students is suing the UC, charging that it is unfair and contrary to California law to make legal out-of-state residents pay a higher tuition rate than illegal immigrants.
A lawyer representing the students said, ‘This is an example of a handful of states disregarding federal law and undermining law enforcement and treating U.S. citizens unfairly.’
Therefore, before figuring out how to allocate funds to illegal immigrants, the state must first determine how to treat its own students, legal immigrant and out-of-state student populations.
For the majority of students at public state schools, the ‘California Dream Act’ may actually be more of a nightmare.
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