California’s government has at times proven unfriendly to students, with drastic cuts to public education resulting in continuously rising student fees at all of California’s public universities. But on July 25, public education advocates and state officials alike were victorious in their efforts to make higher education more accessible when Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 130 — the first half of the California DREAM Act — into law.
With AB 130, California is once again leading the nation toward fairer immigration policy. The law is a milestone in the national debate surrounding immigration, allowing undocumented students to receive financial aid from the institution they attend.
We hope this law will catalyze national reform and allow undocumented students the chance to legally enter the workforce and fully utilize their skills and knowledge that they gain from their education.
But the timing is not right for its companion bill AB 131, which would allow undocumented students to receive financial aid from the state.
With the state’s budget in unprecedented disarray and public education funds being drastically cut, the bill is not a financially viable move. That reality is a direct reflection of the under-performing economy coupled with misplaced state priorities. California’s legislators must prioritize public education and reinvest in the future of the state in order for the DREAM Act to one day be complete.
Because of residency requirements under AB 540, all undocumented students who will receive institutional aid under AB 130 already have firm roots in California.
Thus, moving forward, the next step should be to craft public policy that creates an easier path to citizenship.
Until then, we must continue to pressure our state officials to act responsibly on behalf of students — documented and undocumented.
Though there is no doubt that AB 130 is a tremendous victory for Californians, there is still work to be done, and we look forward to a smarter immigration policy and the fulfillment of students’ dreams across the state and nation.