California passes Dream Act for immigrant students

Backers of the DREAM Act say the United States should encourage youths to pursue higher education as a key to their own and the nation`s economic success.

Last Updated: Oct 09, 2011, 20:12 PM IST

Los Angeles: California governor Jerry Brown
signed the California Dream Act into law, making illegal
immigrants eligible for state money to attend American
universities and colleges, his office said.

Under the act, illegal immigrants who have attended high
school in the Golden State can receive Cal-Grant aid, which
last year gave grants to more than 370,000 poor students of an
average USD 4,500 each.

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

California officials estimate that around 2,500 students
will qualify for the grants under the new state legislation,
called AB 131, costing USD 14.5 million, Brown`s office said
in a statement.

The overall Cal Grant programme is funded at USD 1.4
billion, meaning that only 1 percent of all the program`s
money will be potentially impacted by AB 131 when the law goes
into effect, it said.

Brown, a veteran Democrat, took office in January,
succeeding Republican actor turned politician Arnold
Schwarzenegger, who had vetoed the legislation.

The passage of the law in liberal California, which has a
massive immigrant population, could be seen as a signal to
lawmakers in Washington, over the controversial Development,
Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.

The federal DREAM Act would give a six-year resident`s
permit to high school graduates who came to America illegally,
and let them pay the much cheaper residents` tuition rates or
obtain a scholarship to attend a US university.

It would affect 55,000 immigrant children brought to the
United States illegally by their parents who have been through
the public school system only to find college off-limits
because of their legal status and high tuition fees.

Backers of the DREAM Act say the United States should
encourage youths to pursue higher education as a key to their
own and the nation`s economic success.

But opponents say it would send a message to migrants
that it was acceptable to come to the United States illegally,
and should not be passed without a thorough reform of American
immigration rules.

PTI