Teresa Watanabe and Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times, September 1, 2011
The college dreams of thousands of students who are illegal immigrants moved closer to fulfillment Wednesday after the state Senate approved a bill that for the first time would give them access to public financial aid.
Part of a two-bill package known as the California Dream Act, the measure would allow undocumented students who qualify for reduced in-state tuition to apply for Cal Grants, community college waivers and other public aid programs. To be eligible, they must be California high school graduates who attended schools in the state at least three years, and demonstrate financial need and academic merit.
But opponents decried the bill, AB 131, saying the state could not afford new spending, particularly on illegal immigrants.
“It’s against the rule of law for benefits to be given out to people here without legal status,” Sen. Doug La Malfa (R-Richvale) said in an interview. “People are just insulted. The state is out of money and we are opening a new door here for more funds to be expended.”
The measure passed 22-11 on a party-line vote, with Democratic support and Republican opposition. It is expected to return this week to the Assembly, which previously approved it, for concurrence on Senate amendments. If approved, it will be sent to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.