Volunteers gather signatures to repeal DREAM Act

Individuals working to overturn the California DREAM Act are scrambling to count thousands of petitions by midnight Thursday as the deadline to acquire the signatures necessary to put a repeal of the act on the state ballot fast approaches.

Volunteers at Stop AB 131, a grassroots organization supporting a referendum to repeal the act — an effort spearheaded by state Assembly Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks — must gather 520,000 signatures by Jan. 6 in order to place the referendum on the ballot this November.

Debbie Dobbins, a volunteer at Stop AB 131, said she was confident that the volunteers will meet and exceed the signature quota, aiming to get about 750,000 signatures by the deadline. She said it is typical to aim for a higher amount of signatures than the number required, as counties will sometimes deem petitions invalid upon auditing them.

“It’s kind of like tallying ballots for an election,” she said. “They’re coming in boxes and boxes and boxes.”

Dobbins said people were driving from all around the state to submit their petitions by the deadline. Once the volunteers deem they have enough signatures, she said, they will deliver the petitions to counties to audit them. The counties will then notify the secretary of state, who will help determine whether the referendum will appear on the ballot.

Donnelly said support for the referendum was widespread throughout the state.

“We have high school students coming about against this now,” he said. “Even immigrants are absolutely outraged, they’re off-the-charts upset.”

Assemblymember Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, who wrote the act, said in an October statement that repealing the act would hurt California in the long run.

“Our economy is in need of an educated workforce, and the bill will help us achieve that,” Cedillo said in the statement. “Assemblymember Donnelly’s proposal takes us in the opposite direction.”

But a recent University of Southern California poll found that a majority of registered voters in California oppose the act, and Dobbins said events to get signatures for the referendum were attracting people and volunteers from around the state interested in helping to overturn the legislation.

“There have been gatherings at Walmarts, malls, wherever,” she said. “It’s been very encouraging to see people donate their time that way.”

Damian Ortellado is the lead higher education reporter.