Gov. Brown signs second part of California DREAM Act

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the second part of the California DREAM Act into law Saturday.

AB 131 will allow undocumented students to apply for and receive state financial aid, such as Cal Grants. The California DREAM Act is composed of two parts, both authored by Assemblymember Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles. AB 131 is the second half, and builds upon AB 130, which was signed into law in Julyand allows universities to give private financial aid to undocumented students from their own funds.

“Going to college is a dream that promises intellectual excitement and creative thinking,” Brown said in a Saturday press release. “The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us.”

The California Department of Finance estimates that 2,500 students will qualify for Cal Grants as a result of AB 131, at a cost of $14.5 million — about 1 percent of all Cal Grant funds, according to the Saturday press release.

“It’s a moment that’s ten years in the making,” said CalSERVE Senator Sydney Fang, co-author of the ASUC bill in support of the Dream Act. “This is just a really key step in the movement in making higher education accessible to all students, regardless of their citizenship status.”

AB 130 allows students eligible for AB 540 — or those who have fulfilled similar requirements — to receive scholarships derived from non-state funds. Passed in 2001, AB 540 allows undocumented students who meet certain conditions to pay in-state tuition at a state public higher education institution.

“We’re feeling really great, I know for (Cedillo) its been since 2006 that he’s been waiting,” said  Conrado Terrazas, Cedillo’s communications director. “This has been a real big step for really helping the economy because students who may have once worked at McDonalds now have opportunities to be doctors, teachers, architects.”

AB 540 was intended to improve financial aid access to students who have attended and graduated from California high schools but are still subject to nonresident tuition, which includes, but is not limited to, undocumented students. Undocumented students were not eligible for Cal Grants or other state aid under AB 540, a key factor that led to the proposal of the California DREAM Act.

“This is a huge win — hugely important for California,” said Jeremy Pilaar, UC Student Association board member and an organizer of a group who presented postcardsto Brown last month in support of the DREAM Act. “We value all the students in our state and we are going to give an opportunity to high school students in California who want to make this their home, who want to be contributors to society.”

Yet the impact the California DREAM Act will have on undocumented immigrants is thought to be largely symbolic. Of the 2,240 AB 540 students at the UC level, 30 percent were undocumented, said Luis Quinonez, a legislative aide to Cedillo.AB 131 was passed by the state Assembly last month and had since been sitting on Brown’s desk. Brown had until Sunday at midnight to sign or veto the bill.AB 131 will take effect Jan. 1, 2013.