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California Dream Act debate intensifies

by Christopher A. Guzman, published

While recent census figures indicate that California is rapidly becoming a melting pot of immigrants on the road to becoming the new majority, a debate is sure to materialize in a California Assembly committee hearing today over the California Dream Act (AB 130).  At the heart of the matter will be the possible showdown between Assemblymen Gil Cedillo (D- Los Angeles) and Tim Donnelly (R- Claremont) over two contrasting visions on how the state should handle the proposed immigration policy that would grant financial aid to illegal immigrant children brought over by their parents.

Cedillo has taken to the San Jose Mercury News to make his case for the California Dream Act, vouching for its passage:

     "A paradox of our political culture is that while being uniquely a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of immigration restrictionists. We proclaim that we are 'Proud to be Irish,' or Polish, or Italian, but immigration policy throughout our history has been shaped by racism, fears of foreign influence, the anxiety generated from economic downturns and by political opportunism," said Cedillo.

Cedillo has a legislative reputation in advocating for driver's licenses, in-state tuition, and now access to financial aid for illegal immigrants that's at the core of the California Dream Act.

Donnelly, on the other hand, is against the benefits that Cedillo espouses and is instead in favor of an Arizona-like law in California. A former member of the citizen-driven Minuteman border patrol movement, the Tea Party movement was a pivotal catalyst in propelling him to his current position in the California Assembly. 

     "The facts are incontrovertible that allowing an illegal invasion of the United States will destroy the American Southwest, and very probably wipe out the freedoms we American Christians enjoy, as Muslim Extremists blend in with the so-called 'innocent' illegal aliens, and eventually proselytize them," the assemblyman said as profiled in LA Weekly.

     "None of this bodes well for the citizens who live in Southern California now, nor will it improve the life of the poor alien, but it is well on its way to wiping out everything that was once good in Southern California," he said in the same piece about illegal immigration.

Considering the political disposition of their respective constituencies, Cedillo and Donnelly's oil and water views aren't surprising. Los Angeles and Claremont are practically political polar opposites, the former of which is well-known for voting overwhelmingly liberal and the latter of which is the opposite, being that it lies in a more rural portion of Los Angeles County.

While the committee hearing today should provide some of the usual talking points regarding illegal immigration in California from both Cedillo and Donnelly, there is an opportune moment for those to whom the California Dream Act would apply.  With Governor Jerry Brown as the acting executive in the state, the bill seems likely to pass given that it's been one of the key points of his platform. That is, if it gets out of committee.

With this in mind, California Dreamers will have an opportunity to apply the skills of their subsidized education to aid in rescuing the state from its Titanic-like economic downfall, proving that the state legislature's investment in them at the expense of California taxpayers is worthwhile.  Given that California's struggling taxpayers will be subsidizing their education, I would take it a step further and say that illegal immigrants who benefit from the bill have an obligation to prove to their skeptics that they will contribute to rebuilding a tattered California. If they fail to do so down the line, they will only continue to feed the arguments of their naysayers by their own actions.

Now is their time to shine.

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