Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images.
They may not be able to get their agenda through Congress, but advocates of allowing undocumented immigrants to get a good education in the U.S. won a battle this weekend.
Saturday, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the California Dream Act, which would, among other things, allow noncitizens to qualify for state-funded financial aid, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us,” said the governor in a statement.
The law, which in its federal iteration became too controversial for supporters to push through Congress, will allow undocumented students in California to apply for state-funded grants and other aid. The California Department of Finance estimates 1 percent of the state’s Cal Grants, approximately $14.5 million in funding, could go to undocumented students.
“It’s morally wrong,” Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly told the Los Angeles Times. “We have just created a new entitlement that is going to cause tens of thousands of people to come here illegally from all over the world.”
With a dearth of national policy-making, many states have taken up immigration reform. Alabama currently requires public schools to determine the immigration status of students and gives police the right to detain anyone who can’t produce documentation proving citizenship. Illinois, on the other hand, passed its own Dream Act in August, giving undocumented students access to private education funding.
On the national stage, immigration reform has proven a third rail for Republicans who support it. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah came under fire for co-sponsoring the national bill. Sen. John McCain, who supported legislation in the past, changed his position after the 2008 presidential election and continued it in 2010, when he faced a more conservative challenger in Arizona’s Republican primary.
Republican presidential candidate Gov. Rick Perry has in recent days been plagued by questions from conservatives about his record on immigration. Politico reports that on three separate stops in Iowa, participants needled the Texas governor over his support for a program that allows undocumented immigrants in-state tuition. Recently, Perry suggested that people who don’t support the law “don’t have a heart.”
“Are we going to create a class of tax wasters or are we going to create taxpayers,” Perry said in response to one question, according to Politico. “Every state has the freedom to make that decision. It’s not a federal issue. I would not want it to be a federal issue.”