Supporters celebrate signing of the California DREAM Act

Mario Lopez (left) and CalSERVE senator Ju Hong (right) spoke at a press conference on Monday in support of Jerry Brown signing the DREAM Act.
Sean Goebel/Staff
Mario Lopez (left) and CalSERVE senator Ju Hong (right) spoke at a press conference on Monday in support of Jerry Brown signing the DREAM Act.

The dreary weather painted a sharp contrast to the mood in Eshleman Hall, as undocumented students and supporters celebrated the passing of the second part of the California DREAM Act at a press conference Monday.

“Anytime a ‘DREAMer’ publicly identifies themselves, they draw the risk of deportation,” said Blanca Mendez, a UC Davis alumae and co-founder of the Bay Area DREAM Act Coalition, at the press conference.

Amid chants of “Undocumented and unafraid,” several undocumented students stepped up to the microphone to tell their stories and elaborate on their reactions to the passing of AB 131.

“I was in disbelief when the act passed,” said Catherine Eusebio, an undocumented student from the Philippines and UC Berkeley senior who is involved with Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education, at the press conference.  “When I first set foot on this campus, it was love at first sight. But every night I would have to worry about paying for the next day.

Effective Jan. 1, 2013, AB 131 makes undocumented students who graduated from a California high school and have affirmed they are in the process of applying to legalize their immigration status eligible to apply for Cal Grants and other state aid, according to Brown’s Saturday press release.

Mendez spoke highly of Brown’s decision despite the significant political opposition towards the bill. She said her own collegiate experience was marred by incessant financial woes, forcing her to complete her degree at a glacial pace, eventually finishing in eight years.

“We expect some unhappy residents, but this is an important step forward,” she said.

The event drew nearly as many television cameras and reporters as supporters — and a sea of eclecticallycolored umbrellas, which crowded the entrance to the press conference.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who has been a vocal supporter of the California DREAM Act, was invited to the press conference but opted instead to send a written statement.

“This act gives talented and ambitious young people the same opportunities as all Californians,” he said in the statement. “This reframes the national conversation and will contribute to the vitality of California.”

The speakers sought to dispel the widely held belief that AB 131 exclusively benefits illegal Latino immigrants, pointing out that almost half of all those who will benefit from this legislation are of Asian descent.

Based on Eusebio’s personal experiences and those of her fellow undocumented students, she said she believes fewer students will have to drop out of UC Berkeley for financial reasons now that AB 131 is on the books.

The California Department of Finance estimates that 2,500 additional 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 Saturday’s press release.

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  • Tim Huey

    I applaud the passage of the full California DREAM Act.  It sure beats the previous situation of bright and talented students being financially forced to drop out, which wasted the time and resources invested in their education.  There’s still work to be done since even undocumented graduates currently have no legal option for becoming employed, a huge waste of talent.  Talented people may fill jobs but they also create them.

  • Anonymous

    Every qualified California student should get a place in University of California system. That’s a desirable
    goal for a public university. However, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau
    displaces Californians qualified for education at Cal. with $50,600 tuition Foreigners.

    UC tuition increases
    exceed the national average rate of increase. The University
    of California Board Of Regents
    jeopardizes Californians attending higher education by making UC the most
    expensive public university in the United States.

    tuition increases are used by UC President Mark Yudof to increase the pay of
    80,000 eligible faculty and others. Payoffs like these point to higher
    operating costs and still higher tuition for Californians.

    I agree that faculty in higher
    education and senior management, like Yudof and Birgeneau, should consider the
    students’ welfare and put it high on their values.

    Deeds unfortunately do not bear
    out the students’ welfare values of senior management and the UC Board of

    Opinions to UC Board of Regents,
    email    [email protected]

  • Guest

    “Mario Lopez (left) and CalSERVE senator Ju Hong (right)”

    So Mario Lopez is asian, and Ju Hong is hispanic?
    Either that’s a weird coincidence, or the Daily Cal doesn’t bother to verify their photo captions for accuracy.

  • Somebody

    The fools, this unconstitutional dream act will be quashed in the 9th District or the Supreme Court long before a nickel is handed out to these greedy illegal aliens.  

    It’s highly probable that the rise in financial aid applications is a clever ploy to track down illegal aliens by ICE, so they may be deported long before it reaches the courts.  Those forms do ask a lot of personal questions, lack of a SSN will be red flagged on the computer and ICE agents will arrive with warrants for arrest.  How do you say, “too good to be true” in Spanish?

    Colleges will be held responsible like employers if they knowingly participate with illegal aliens.  The Federal government has imposed fines despite what local government may promise.

    • Anonymous

      democrats buying votes