One half of the California DREAM Act could become law after clearing the state Senate Thursday afternoon. AB 130, widely considered the less controversial half of the two-bill package introduced by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo earlier this year, was approved in a 25-10 vote. The bill would allow undocumented immigrant youth who qualify for in-state tuition to also be eligible to apply for privately funded scholarships that other students at the state’s public college and university system are allowed to access.
Currently, undocumented immigrants are barred from accessing any kind of federal student loans, grants or aid, and AB 130 could change that for California’s undocumented immigrant students.
"If you think about who we’re talking about today under this measure, those students who benefit from this measure are the people who will help lead American in the next technological revolution, the next economic boom," said state Sen. Lou Correa during the floor debate on Thursday. "These are kids, students who are eager to study, to work hard."
"This is nothing more than a common sense measure looking to benefit and strengthen this great country."
"This is fundamentally a civil rights bill," said state Sen. Darrell Steinberg during the bill’s floor debate. "And while we have our partisan differences on many, many things, this bill should not be a party line bill."
In the end, the bill garnered one Republican vote, from state Sen. Anthony Cannella.
The California legislature has approved versions of the state DREAM Act in the past. Cedillo has introduced versions of the DREAM Act every year since 2006, but former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s vetoed the bill multiple times. This year, Illinois and Maryland’s legislatures have advanced similar bills that would allow undocumented immigrant youth to pay in-state tuition, or access privately funded scholarships, similar to California’s AB 130.
One half of the California DREAM Act still awaits consideration by the Senate. AB 131, which passed the Assembly earlier this year, would allow undocumented immigrant youth to be eligible for state financial aid, including California Pell Grants and Cal Grants, is expected to face tougher hurdles to passage as the state is mired in a massive budget deficit and aid for all students is being cut.