It’s D-Day for California’s Dream Act – the clock is ticking
Today California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has a tough decision; he will either dash the hopes of illegal aliens wanting to have the state pay for their higher education and veto The Dream Act, or the governor can do nothing and the legislation will become law after midnight.
With Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman in the middle of housekeeper-gate (opponents say she knowingly hired an illegal maid) and Republican Senatorial candidate Carly Fiorina, who said at her first debate that she supports the Dream Act, the governors office is waiting until the last day to decided the fate of two immigration bills.
Many opponents think the federal DREAM Act that languished a few weeks ago in Washington D.C. was nothing more than granting amnesty for illegal immigrants that would only encourage more illegal immigration.
The Heritage Foundation believes Congress needs to work “toward an immigration system that enforces rule of law, maintains security, and promotes the economy. Such a system can be achieved by robustly enforcing immigration laws, securing the border, reforming the visa system, and working with Mexico and other appropriate countries on law enforcement/public safety issues as well as free market initiatives.”
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act essentially repeals part of a prior federal law- specifically the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA); “that prohibits any state from offering in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens unless the state also offers in-state tuition rates to all U.S. citizens,” according to The Heritage Foundation.
Consequences of enacting a Dream-type piece of legislation include; rewarding illegal behavior by giving them in-state tuition, encourage more illegal aliens to cross the often treacherous southern borders knowing children will get a college education at taxpayer expense, penalizes U.S. residents from seeking college outside their state because they will have to pay out-of-state tuition and it stops all deportations of those 36 and under if they attend college or join the military.
“Instead of focusing on making amnesty the centerpiece of immigration reform efforts, Congress and the Administration should: Ensure robust enforcement of immigration laws, finish securing the border, institute much-needed reforms of the visa system and work with Mexico and other appropriate countries,” says Jena Baker McNeill, Policy Analyst for Homeland Security for The Heritage Foundation.
However, there is another side to this issue and they are trying equally as hard to convince Governor Schwarzenegger to do nothing and allow the two bills to become law.
California’s very own Dream Act comes in the form of Senate Bill 1460 and Assembly Bill 1413 both were approved by the state legislature and are ready for a signature.
California AB 1413 and SB 1460 also dubbed “The Dream Act” – would divert financial aid away from legal California residents and give assistance to illegal aliens. Critics argue the new benefit will only offer more incentives to break the U.S. immigration law.
Early cost estimates of the Dream Act weigh in the neighborhood of $40 million. The bill calls for the state to provide benefits to assist illegal aliens who attend California colleges. Critics argue that this assistance will add to the estimated $90 million a year California taxpayers already provide to give some illegal aliens in-state tuition benefits.
Spokespeople from the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) have expressed their support for the Dream Act even though it would add a financial burden to cash-strapped colleges.
Karen French, UCOP representative even wrote a letter to the governor’s office on behalf of the UCOP, offering support for SB1460 and requested that the Schwarzenegger sign the bill.
“SB1460 addresses the remaining hurdle for (undocumented) students: their inability to receive institutional aid,” French said. “Through their hard work and perseverance, these students have earned the opportunity to attend a UC. Their accomplishments should not be disregarded or their future jeopardized because of their legal status.”
The A.S. Vice President of External Affairs Michael Lam says he is working with UC student leaders to get the word out and mobilize student support of the legislation.
“This year (we will be working) with University of California Student Association to launch a campaign titled Economic Justice for the UC (which in part) will be to ensure that all students, no matter their documentation status, have a right to afford higher education,” he said.
The bill’s author, Senator Gil Cedillo (D-LA) also feels a pang of anger that the bill failed in D.C., but remains hopeful the Golden State’s governor will do the right thing.
“The U.S. Senate has lost the opportunity to advance the future of thousands of young talented students and our economy. We have duties and obligations to move young talent forward in our state and support them with equal education opportunities,” Cedillo said in a release posted on his website.
Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman has articulated a polar opposite view on her policy page, “Meg is opposed to any form of amnesty. As Governor, Meg will support policies that will not allow undocumented immigrants admission to state-funded institutions of higher education.”
On the other hand, California’s Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, said at her first debate with incumbent Barbara Boxer (D-CA) she would support the DREAM Act, setting her apart from the majority of GOP lawmakers.
“I would support the DREAM Act because I do not believe that we can punish children who through no fault of their own are here trying to live the American dream,” she said.
Her opponent, Boxer said would rather see a comprehensive immigration reform.
“The way to get the economy going again is to go with comprehensive immigration reform,” Boxer pointed out. “The DREAM Act is part of that.”
While the Dream Act is a tough sell to Californians who are dealing with the nation’s third highest unemployment numbers, close to 13 percent, supporters believe it is vital to pass the legislation in order to move the immigration reform debate forward.
Despite Schwarzenegger’s action or inaction federal law will trump state law and as such will nullify most of the bills components. And without the federal bill, illegal aliens who receive college degrees will still be unable to legalize their status and join their fellow classmates in the U.S. workforce.