Despite California facing deep cuts to its education budget, the state assembly’s Higher Education Committee has decided to advance the California Dream Act to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
On Tuesday, committee members voted 6-2 and 5-2 to allow illegal immigrants to access institutional and state financial aid with passage of AB 130 and AB 131, the Daily Californian reported. In addition, AB 131 does not reduce the amount of Cal Grant money available to legal students. As expected, the committee vote went along party lines as two of the sitting Republicans voted against the measures: Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) and Katcho Achadijian (R-San Luis Obispo).
If the measures pass in the Appropriations Committee, not only will they likely pass the Democratic-controlled legislature, but they will also likely be signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown as previously indicated. At stake is the fact that, while opening the door for those brought here by no choice of their own, these bills will also cause more economic uncertainty for California’s taxpayers.
While the committee did ensure that the same Cal Grant amount is available to legal students, legislators and activists in favor of the California Dream Act are forced to reconcile the projected $500 million in education budget cuts with welcoming illegal immigrant students to partake of the benefits offered by the state’s higher education system. Legislators supporting AB 130 must be held accountable for the loss of revenue that will result from illegal immigrant students being able to apply for the Board of Governors Fee Waiver in the state’s community colleges. The same goes for supporting AB 131, which makes illegal immigrants eligible for the Cal Grants set aside for state residents who enroll in higher education in the golden state. These costs will need to at least be considered by the Appropriations Committee in May.
When the Act reaches his desk, the governor must also communicate to California’s taxpayers how these goals are realistically feasible during California’s financial crunch. While voters may have pulled for the Democratic governor and legislature in the past election, some did so with the understanding that the governor would provide some effective solutions to the state’s severe budget problems.
Aside from the possible budgetary impact that the legislation will have, it also leaves the question of citizenship of those illegally residing in California unresolved. As the state continues to struggle on the fiscal side, education investments in California’s illegal immigrant students, subsidized by taxpayers, are of no benefit if those same students at the end of the day are still not U.S. citizens. Granting citizenship is a federal responsibility.
In what will undoubtedly have national implications down the road, the California Dream Act seems as if it’s a bigger gamble than investment given that the Obama administration has failed to come through on comprehensive reform. California’s economy will remain weak if those very immigrant students are held back from contributing their skills to the workforce as a result of their illegal status.