First part of state DREAM Act’s signing may give new opportunities to undocumented students

Supporters of the DREAM Act, pictured here in a September 2010 protest promoting the act, are now beginning to see results with Gov. Jerry Brown signing part one of the act, AB 130, into law Monday.
Evan Walbridge/File
Supporters of the DREAM Act, pictured here in a September 2010 protest promoting the act, are now beginning to see results with Gov. Jerry Brown signing part one of the act, AB 130, into law Monday.

Like many other immigrants, ASUC Senator-elect Ju Hong came to the United States in search of a better life.

Hong, 21, lived in South Korea until he was 11 years old. Financial difficulties became a pressing issue when his family’s dream of a owning a small restaurant business drove them into debt. Hong still clearly remembers a night when two debt collectors came to his home, broke the door, grabbed a chair and smashed the windows.

“We couldn’t deal with it anymore,” Hong said. “One day my mom approached me and said we’re going to America. At first I didn’t want to go, but as a child, what else could I do? I was forced to go, but my mom’s true intention was to seek a better life for me and my sister.”

During his senior year of high school, Hong was filling out college applications when he realized that he didn’t know his social security number. When he asked his mother, he discovered that his family had come to the country on tourist visas. The visas had since then expired.

After finding out his immigration status, Hong, who had been an outgoing and approachable high school student, became “very distant from (his) friends and the community.”

“I felt very isolated — I was very embarrassed of who I was,” Hong said. “I remember avoiding questions like, ‘How come you don’t get a driver’s license? How come you don’t get a job, an internship?’”

However, the signing of AB 130 — part one of the California DREAM Act — on Monday may be the first step in equalizing opportunities for students like Hong.

The bill, authored by Assemblymember Gilbert Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown and allows UC, CSU and California Community Colleges to award privately funded scholarships to undocumented students.

“The DREAM Act will allow me to work, stay here and contribute to society, and that’s all I wanted to do,” Hong said. “It’s great news for dreamers and immigrant communities.”

Cedillo commented on the significance of the event at the bill’s signing, saying that “it has been a long journey to realize this moment and this day.”

“I know that I stand here today as the result of a great public education,” Cedillo said at a press conference. “Public education is the lifeblood of our democracy. Public education in this great state and this great nation is the equalizer of our society.”

Brown said at the bill’s signing that “this is one piece of a very important mosaic, which is a California that works for everyone.”

“Anything that’s going to advance the cause of our people — whatever their background, their color, their religion, their political philosophy — all of that is secondary to the fact that we’re Californians together,” Brown said at the press conference. “There’s a dream, and that dream is fulfilled by the human imagination nurtured in schools, but also nurtured in neighborhoods.”

On the other hand, opponents of the act believe that “now is a bad time to be shifting funds away from our own education,” said John Freeman, a representative for Assemblymember Bill Berryhill, R-Ceres, who could not be reached for comment.

“Why would you offer to pay for somebody who could not even legally obtain a job when there are tons and tons of citizens in our own state who cannot afford their education?” Freeman said.

Nevertheless, supporters of the act are still not satisfied. Hong said that while the passage of AB 130 is a step forward, “We have to push, mobilize and organize” in order to get the second part of the act, AB 131, passed as well.

AB 131, which would allow undocumented students to apply for and receive state financial aid, such as Cal Grants, is still pending in the state Senate.

“This would be the huge gain that really made a big difference,” said UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Gibor Basri. “Financial aid is the predominant obstacle these students face and the single factor that most prevents extremely talented individuals from achieving their potential at UC Berkeley.”

Other individuals in the UC Berkeley community have been actively voicing their opinions about the DREAM Act. Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said that UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau “has been a really strong and vigorous advocate and champion for this legislation.”

“The chancellor said publicly that AB 131 is a critical component in allowing students to attend (UC) Berkeley because that would broaden the aid for so-called AB 540 students,” Mogulof said.

AB 540, passed in 2001, grants in-state tuition for higher education, regardless of citizenship or residency, to students who graduate from a California high school, among other requirements. According to UC estimates, “approximately 500 to 650 students who qualify for the AB 540 nonresident tuition exemption are potentially undocumented,” said UC spokesperson Dianne Klein in an email.

As for AB 131, the UC estimates that approximately 800 undergraduate students who qualify for AB 540 nonresident tuition exemption would meet the requirements for a Cal Grant. In addition, it is estimated that another 400 to 500 students would qualify for $3.7 million to $4.6 million in institutional aid, Klein added in the email.

Until AB 131 is passed, supporters of the DREAM Act said they will continue working to build awareness and momentum.

“It’s a human rights issue,” Hong said.

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  • dropout

    If you really care about those kids (18 year olds) don’t do it.

  • CalMom

    I read this article and burst into tears.  I am a Cal alum, and in this economy I am struggling to send my two kids to college.  My children were BORN HERE in these United States, and they say that I make too much money for them to get financial aid.  Yet, like most people these days, I live on meager means.  And the Governor wants to extend opportunities to people who have broken laws??!!  Why can’t this guy go back to Korea and get an education?  He is a citizen of THAT country??  Why should anyone who is not here legally have an expectation of entitlements that belong to the native born?  I don’t get it…

    • Guest

      The act in question (AB 130) provides no entitlements.  It merely allows non-native students to apply for privately funded scholarships.  Since Cal has always admitted foreign students, I doubt this bill makes any difference at all.

      • [The act in question (AB 130) provides no entitlements.  It merely allows
        non-native students to apply for privately funded scholarships.]

        That includes ILLEGAL ALIENS. You don’t see a problem there?

        • Guest

          No.  Private donors can support whomever they choose.  UC doesn’t exclude non-citizens.  I-House is filled with them.

          It’s AB131 that will provoke a firestorm of contention.  But it’s also highly unlikely that the Legislature will agree to subsidize non-citizens.

          UC is not a law-enforcement agency.  We have no authority to investigate or prosecute students for federal offenses.

          • [UC is not a law-enforcement agency. ]

            Unless someone does something Politically Incorrect, and offends one of the protected classes, then the usual suspects do everything they can to punish the offender. Seen that first-hand.

          • Guest

            I wasn’t making a joke.  The campus can enforce its own conduct code; it can’t enforce federal laws.

  • Guest

    it’s really not a human rights issue…

    • Anonymous

      It really is.

      • Guest

        Citizenship in the US is not a human right.

        • Anonymous

          How does that detract from it being a human rights issue? Not at all. It still is a human rights issue.

          • Guest

            Subsidized higher education is a question for US law, not the United Nations.  No human right is being violated.

          • Anonymous

            You’re missing the whole damn point… It’s not about citizenship or subsidized higher education. It’s about the unjust treatment that undocumented people have to go through all the while working and contributing to the US economy. I don’t expect you to get it though; your posts are exemplary of your ignorance.

          • Guest

            “It’s not about citizenship or subsidized higher education.”
            Did you bother to read the article you’re commenting on?  How else is UC involved?  Do you think the University is some kind of High Commission for the protection of migrants?

          • Anonymous

            Yes, I read the article. And look, I get that your closed-minded and that you  just don’t get it. So let’s just leave it at that.

          • Guest

            Well, if you can’t respond to the specifics of the topic, Adios.

          • Anonymous

            Read the article. Go to the part where it says it’s a human rights issue. Is that what the article says or what someone says? Now, do you think they are referring solely to education or citizenship, or a larger human rights issue at hand? Do I really need to take you step by step through this?

            At this point, you’re just being a goddamn troll.

          • [It’s about the unjust treatment that undocumented people have to go
            through all the while working and contributing to the US economy.]

            The only “unjust” part is that they are here illegally and sucking up resources that could be provided to legal citizens. If you’re so damned worried about “injustice”, you can take care of that problem by calling ICE to round them up and send them home.

          • Anonymous

            “here illegally, sucking up resources” blah blah blah. I’ve never heard that old line before.

            Don’t mention that undocumented people pay taxes. No, of course not, because then what you’re saying doesn’t make any sense. I mean it’s not like US citizens and non-citizens alike “suck up resources”. Noooo it’s just undocumented people. 

            Get out of here…

          • Guest

            “undocumented people pay taxes”  But they don’t pay them willingly.  Employers withhold taxes, and illegal workers can get them refunded.  Presumably they claim the maximum deductions to minimize withholding.  When possible, they work “off the books” to evade tax altogether.

          • Anonymous

            Who, if anyone, pays taxes “willingly”? Nonetheless, I really don’t think you’re an undocumented person and know what undocumented people think, say, or feel.

          • As was pointed out “citizenship in the US is not a human right”. Enforcement of our immigration laws is not a human rights issue.

  • Anonymous

    There are fewer undocumented immigrants in California – and the Sacramento region – because many are now finding the American dream south of the border.

    “It’s now easier to buy homes on credit, find a job and access higher education in Mexico,” Sacramento’s Mexican consul general, Carlos González Gutiérrez, said Wednesday. “We have become a middle-class country.”

    So Adios Vatos!!!

  • Anonymous

    University of California Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau displaces qualified for public university education californians with $50,000 FOREIGN students.

    University of California (UC) tuition, fee increases are an
    insult. Californians face mortgage defaults, 12% unemployment, pay reductions,
    loss of unemployment benefits. No layoff or wage reductions for UC Chancellors,
    Vice Chancellors, Faculty during greatest recession of modern times.

    There is no good reason to raise tuition, fees when
    wage concessions are available. UC wages must reflect California’s
    ability to pay, not what others are paid. If wages better elsewhere,
    chancellors, vice chancellors, tenured, non tenured faculty, UCOP apply for the
    positions. If wages determine commitment to UC Berkeley, leave for better paying
    position. The sky above the 10 campuses will not fall.

    Pitch in for all Democrats, Republicans UC

    No furloughs. UCOP 18% reduction salaries & $50
    million cut.

    Chancellors’ Vice-Chancellors’, 18% cut. Tenured
    faculty 15% trim.

    Non-Tenured, 10% reduction.  Academic Senate, Council remove 100% costs

    It is especially galling to continue to generously
    compensate chancellors, vice-chancellors, faculty while Californians are making
    financial sacrifices and faculty, chancellor, vice-chancellor turnover is one
    of the lowest of public universities.

    The message that President Yudof, UC Board of Regent
    Chair Lansing, UC Berkeley Birgeneau are sending is that they have more concern
    for generously paid chancellors, faculty. The few at the top need to get a grip
    on economic reality and fairness.

    The California Legislature needs a Bill to oversee
    higher education salaries, tuition 

  • Anonymous

    Nose under tent. Look out below Cali.

  • Guest

    ““The DREAM Act will allow me to work, stay here, and contribute to society”
    This is some kind of misunderstanding.  How do privately funded scholarships allow undocumented students to work or to stay in the USA?  And contributing to society does not require a subsidized degree from a public university.

    • Anonymous

      Isn’t it fun to say “un doc u ment ed” instead of illegal.

      You are fooling no one trying to create yet again a separate class….something Libs love to do so they can spend more of your money.

  • Cirus03

    Human Rights is a “Wolf in sheeps clothing” when it comes to the ideological war from the modern world. Take our example of the Western World in the Middle East. Granted that in the USA it is an acceptable argument; “this human rights argument. I think people that have come here undocumented do deserve recognition and dignity, we cant punish them for the mistakes our Government has made. The Government has been very neglectful on this issue, and undocumented immigration needs to be addressed. On the other hand we can’t continue to accept this behavior (of undocumented immigration) because it undermines our sovereignty. Everyone is accountable, from companies who encourage this behavior, to Free trade agreements that mess up countries which leads to a mass exodus of people to this country. If people are willing to risk their life’s coming here, then i think politically they should risk it at home to make their home a better place.  Its everyone’s responsibility. we cant continue to encourage behavior that undermines our system of laws either. There has to be a middle ground here.