Sacramento – The state Senate on Wednesday approved the second half of contentious legislation that would allow students who are undocumented immigrants to apply for state-funded scholarships and financial aid.
On Thursday Lupe Moreno, president of "Latino Americans For Immigration Reform," and undocumented student Ivan Ceja, talked to us about the passing of the Dream Act. Watch the discussion in the video below.
The Senate approved AB131, also known as the California Dream Act, with a 22-11 vote, leaving it just one step away from the governor's desk.
The state Assembly must consider changes to the bill it previously passed before it can go to Gov. Jerry Brown.
"These students are valedictorians, they're class presidents, and they're all-star athletes. They are the future of California," said Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Monterey Park, who carried the bill in the Senate.
The bill is part of a legislative package by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles. Last month, Brown, a Democrat, signed a separate bill by Cedillo approving private scholarships and loans for undocumented immigrant students. AB131 would make those students eligible for state-funded financial aid.
Critics say allowing access to those state resources encourages illegal immigration. Supporters counter that the students, many of whom were brought to the United States as young children, shouldn't be punished for their parents' actions.
Sen. Doug La Malfa, R-Willows, opposed the bill Wednesday. He read a letter from a constituent who said his daughter's California education grant was recently cut. He said passing a law such as this would be like rubbing salt in his wound.
Cedillo's legislative package differs from the federal Dream Act, a proposal that would create a path to citizenship for those who are brought to the country illegally as children.
Under the bill approved Wednesday, undocumented immigrant students would have to meet the same requirements as others but only would qualify for financial aid that remains after legal residents apply.
"They basically receive the leftovers," Calderon said.
The state Assembly approved a similar bill Wednesday by Assemblyman Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, on a 49-23 vote and sent it to the governor's desk.
The approval came after a heated debate on AB844, which would allow illegal immigrant college students to hold student government office and receive any grants, scholarships or other assistance that come with the jobs.
Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, R-Costa Mesa, called the bill just one more attempt by Democrats to undermine immigration laws.
"It's a slap in the face to people who followed the rules, people like my parents," Mansoor said.
Lara's legislation was sparked by the story of Pedro Ramirez, the former student body president at California State University, Fresno, who acknowledged last year while in office that he was undocumented. Ramirez had declined the $9,000 stipend to which he was entitled because he did not want to lie on employment papers.
Ramirez said his parents brought him to the U.S. when he was 3 and he only learned he was not a citizen when he began applying to colleges.
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