Yesterday, California governor Jerry Brown signed one half of a bill known as the California DREAM Act into law.
The bill, known as AB130, was the less controversial half of a two-part bill that would effectively make undocumented students in California eligible to apply for college scholarships. AB130, which would remove the requirement for students to submit a valid Social Security number on their applications, would allow undocumented students to apply for privately funded scholarships. While AB130 quickly passed the California State Senate in mid-July, the fate of its counterpart, AB131, remains unknown. AB131 would make undocumented students eligible for public financial aid. A version of the California DREAM Act was first introduced to California’s legislature in 2006, but vetoed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Under another California state law, AB540, which passed in 2001, students who have attended a California high school for at least three years and graduate are eligible for in-state tuition at California institutions of higher education, regardless of their citizenship status. AB130 and, if it manages to pass, AB131, would further ease undocumented students’ chances of attending universities and obtaining higher degrees.
The California DREAM Act has several counterparts in other states throughout the country. States like Maryland, Connecticut, Illinois and Texas are either considering or have already passed state-level DREAM Acts to allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition and access scholarships. All of these laws are separate entities from the federal DREAM Act, which would ultimately create a path for U.S. citizenship for undocumented students after they graduate from college. Congress has attempted to pass the federal DREAM Act several times to no avail. In late 2010, the bill passed through the House of Representatives but failed to bypass a Senate filibuster shortly afterward.