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The recently-signed California DREAM Act has been an issue of controversy in California politics. Californian Governor Jerry Brown signed the law in early October 2011 that makes the illegal immigrant students eligible to get financial aid. The law, called AB 131 is a part of another two-part legislation known as the national DREAM Act. The Dream Act was originally proposed to senate by senator Richard Durbin and Senator Orin Hatch on the 1st of August200. This Act is a two-part legislation that renders undocumented immigrants eligible to receive educational financial aid. This paper is going to discuss this controversial law signed by Brown on the 8th of October 2010. The paper will give factual information concerning the law; discuss its importance and the controversy surrounding it. In the study, I will also give my argumentative opinion on why I support the law.
For one to qualify for the aid one must possess the following requirements: First, you should be an illegal migrant who arrived in the country as a minor. These are the children who landed in the country with their parents at a remarkably young age; and since it is not their fault that they are here because they did not choose to be here; their parents did. Secondly, the law stipulates the candidate to be of good morals and character. Third requirement is that the candidate must have lived in the country in the country for five continuous years before the law comes into practice. Moreover, he or she must be a graduate from any American high school and has continued on to at least two years of higher education. The California Act differs from the national DREAM Act of May 2011, in that it does not have the potential to provide a pathway to citizenship (Medina 16). The Act will enable the illegal immigrant students receive public scholarships, for instance Cal Grants.
According to CNN reporter Martinez, the state projects that 2,500 students will receive Cal Grants totaling to 14.5 million dollars, according to the Department of Finance of California. This averages to 5,800 dollars per student. The overall funding amounts to one percent of the 1.4 billion dollars of Cal Grant program. Currently, the illegal immigrants cannot access the state-funded financial aid, which leaves them with the only option of working several jobs while studying and apply for the limited number of scholarships available to them (Martinez 1). This bill, AB 131 changes this by the fact that it makes the Cal Grants accessible to students, therefore, providing aid to low-income students. Also, the students, under this program have access to other state-funded tuition if they meet the requirements set by law. The undocumented students are also eligible for fee waivers at the community college level.
This issue is important because, as Jerry Brown put it, “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 us all.”(Martinez, CNN 1) This law is essential to the immigrant students because it will help them get through their education. These are the students who usually experience the hardest time paying for college because they do not qualify for any financial aid, cannot be legally employed since they do not have papers and their parents are not well up to help. They do multiple jobs, which leaves them burnt out and affects their grades (Asimov 1).
Additionally, the issue is of concern to the parents who have dedicated their savings for years to the education kitty-they have saved tens of thousands of dollars that the state’s university education requires for their children. These parents hope that their own children will benefit with the money, only to see that now the people they see as law breakers will take the college seats and the cash that should help their own kids. This, if not well taken care of, can accelerate the issue of racism. Politicians can also take advantage of it to influence the voters. Another critical consequence that is necessary to look at is the fact that helping the illegal immigrants pay for their fees, giving them scholarships and waivers is likely to encourage more people intending to come to the country illegally to do so. This will eventually cause an influx of undocumented immigrants into the country, which will add more burden to the taxpayer (Siders 1). Moreover, the law has come at a time when this state is facing huge budget problems and drastically reducing its spending on higher education (Medina 16).
Even if, the California Dream Act seems beneficial to the immigrants, it is not without opposition and criticism. The Democrats have supported the law while the Republicans are strongly against it. It has continued to attract sharp controversy among parents, teachers and most of all the politicians.
Those who oppose the California Dream Act have argued that the government should not use public funds to help illegal immigrants, especially a time like this when California is facing deep budget woes. These budget woes have stimulated cuts in education and the higher tuitions at the state’s universities and public colleges.
Secondly, the citizens will have a hard time enough getting the classes they need since more undocumented immigrants are taking up some of their space. Assemblyman Tim Donnelly slammed the Act as “fundamentally unfair” and filed a referendum that seeks to appeal the controversial law. Donnelly, as quoted by said that it is true the illegal immigrants have gone through heartbreaking lives; kids that are highly intelligent, and though one’s heart will break for them, it is because their parents broke the law and it is not anyone’s wish that children are the ones who have to pay. He, however, asks, “Is it fair for every American citizen and every legal immigrant to have their dreams deferred so those illegals can have theirs?” (Asimov 1). He adds that the bill does not include any mechanisms to ensure that the legal residents get the aid first. He believes that all children face is a consequence of their parents’ actions, and the government does not have a role of standing in the gap to solve each and every problem because some of the parents acted irresponsibly and put their children at risk.
Those supporting the law, Democrats especially, argue that many of these undocumented immigrants were brought here while less than ten years old and so have nothing to do with their presence here. Richard Turnbull, a trustee with the Democratic Club of Victor Valley says that this law can only have a positive effect considering that immigrants are able to speak English already and have passed all the prerequisites needed for one to qualify as a university or college student. He believes that it is an investment in America’s future (Asimov 1).
Additionally, the supporters of the law feel say that it will serve as a good example to other states that are setting contradicting immigration laws to be more cautious on issues relating to immigration. In a statement, Cedillo, who presented the bill to the senate, said that the law will send a message across the whole country that the state of California is ready to lead the country with a productive and positive vision for how people approach challenging issues relating to migration (Siders 1).
The supporters of this law argue that the undocumented immigrants are intelligent and; therefore, their potential should be tapped to aid in the well-being of the economy. This can only be done by giving them a decent education. The fact that the immigrant students have studied to the point of acquiring the university prerequisite is enough reason to show their willingness to learn to become more productive and have a positive impact on this country’s economy. Indeed, some of them do multiple jobs to be able to raise the money needed for their college fees. The supporters know very well these students can never wish to be in the situation they are in is as a result of their parent’s act. They would opt for better jobs but cannot access it since they have no documents to prove their legality. Additionally, implementing such a significant law as this sends a good picture all over the country that we should care for each other.
The opponents of this law argue that the state should not care for the immigrants since it is their parent’s mistake that they are here. It is the obligation of any stable country, however, to accommodate people from other countries and help them if the conditions and peace in their country destabilizes. What the opponents do not count is that the parents might have immigrated here due to war in their home countries or disasters; and as at those conditions there is no possibility of following documentation procedures.
The illegal immigrants mostly undertake the odd jobs that many residents would not do. This means that they are of considerable help to the residents. The immigrant students in particular do several jobs, which means, they participate in the race towards achieving the American dream. Aiding them in education would make them even more productive. If the state does not give them the opportunity to learn, it would be a disgrace since even if the residents are smart enough; the illegal immigrants may turn to illegal means of acquiring money for their living thus threatening the security and among all. Having said all that, refusing to accept this law would not be logical. Illegal immigrants are of significant contribution to U.S economy and giving them the little financial aid projected in the bill will surely have no destructive effect on the taxpayer, but will be of significant help to them and to our economy.
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