The California DREAM Act Referendum

On early October of last year, California’s governor Jerry Brown signed a couple of bills known as the California DREAM Act into law. One half of the bills allows undocumented students be eligible for private scholarships which takes effect January 2012, the other half allows them to receive state grants starting January 2013. Even though, many undocumented students celebrated this event, some people were not happy with the decision of governor Brown. Within a few days, opponents started gathering signatures in an attempt to make a referendum appear on the November 2012 ballot. It is important to keep in mind that this bill will not give citizenship to undocumented students, and only receive state financial aid, not federal. Only students who have been living in California before the age of 16 and received a high school diploma will be eligible.

Earlier this month, Republican assemblyman Tim Donnelly announced that the measure failed due to a shortage on the necessary of signatures. Opponents were given 90 days in order to receive at least 500,000 signatures. I, myself witnessed a group of adults gathering signatures outside Stater Bros.

A poll by Los Angeles Times shows that most Latinos  support the bill. On the other hand, more than half of Caucasians are against it. One of the main reasons why opponents encourage voters to be against the bill is because using tax payers dollars is not fair to California’s citizens. Another reason they argue is that the state’s budget is in a really bad estate to be giving financial aid to undocumented students. Others argue that this bill will only encourage illegal behavior and increase the flow of undocumented students to California, and the arguments against the bill seem endless.

While some states tighten their immigration laws such as Arizona and Alabama, California moves towards the opposite direction with the signing of the California DREAM Act. I highly believe that this act should be applauded. The California DREAM Act should be viewed as a reward for good behavior by these students, not as an incentive for an increase of illegal immigration, just as how this opinion article explains. These students are often excellent student, with outstanding grades and excellent morals, but due to financial difficulties have to stop their education after graduating high school.

It is estimated that only about 2,500 students will benefit due to this new law. According to California’s website “The California Department of Finance estimates that 2,500 students will qualify for Cal Grants as a result of AB 131, at a cost of $14.5 million. The overall Cal Grant program is funded at $1.4 billion, meaning that 1 percent of all Cal Grant funds will be potentially impacted by AB 131 when the law goes into effect.” Only 1% of the Cal Grant is going to be affected, also keeping in mind that undocumented students are going to be placed at the end of the list when grants are being distributed. As far as tax payers money being used, everyone pays taxes. When you go to the store, you don’t even have a choice on whether to pay taxes or not, you have to pay the sales taxes. If it was possible for these students to work, I can assure you that most of them, if not all would pay the necessary taxes in order to fund education for everyone, not just for them.

The Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated in a 2010 report that the DREAM Act would “reduce deficits by about $1.4 billion over the 2011-2020 period and increase government revenues by $2.3 billion over the next 10 years.” In order to be eligible, these students need to show that they are on the right way towards legalizing their status, or sign a paper saying that they will fix their legal residency as soon as it is possible for them. With their legal residency, these students with college education can obtain decent paying jobs and pay the necessary taxes.

The debate on whether this law is the right thing to do, or California’s worst nightmare will prevail until people get used to the idea, or the law is repealed. Only time will expose California’s voters will. Whether you support the California DREAM Act or not, keep in mind that many of these students have been living in this country for most of their lives, with no knowledge of their native country or their culture. Many of these student were brought here as children by their parents, without knowing what was going on, and often with lies such as “we’re just visiting auntie Suzy in the States”. Some of these students were not even aware of their legal status until they started applying to universities and finding out they no not have a social security number.

What would you do in a similar situation? Would you listen to some opponents when they say to “go back to your country”, even though United States is your country? Or to pay taxes when you’re not given a chance to?

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