The Dream Act is now the law in California. Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law Saturday, Oct. 8.
The new law allows illegal immigrant college-age children to qualify for state financial aid. Only two other states -- Texas and New Mexico -- have similar laws. California is one of about a dozen states that allow illegal immigrant students to pay in-state tuition, based on attendance and graduation from a state high school.
"The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us," Brown said. Last July, Brown signed into law a companion bill to allow illegal immigrant children to qualify for privately funded college scholarships.
Opponents of the California Dream Act have argued that public funds should not be used to help illegal immigrants, especially as California faces deep budget woes that have prompted cuts in education and higher tuitions at the state's public colleges and universities.
A federal Dream Act that would have created a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who attend college or serve in the military failed in the U.S. Senate last year, but Sen. Dick Durbin (D.-Ill.) couldn't even bring the bill up for debate in the summer of 2007. Some members of Congress actually believe the children are criminals even though most -- if not all -- did not have the capacity to break the law (a misdemeanor) when their parents brought them across the U.S.-Mexico border without inspection.
The new California law would affect 3,633 students, or less than one percent of the 440,000 students enrolled in the current school year. Of the nearly 2.9 million community college enrollees in California, 34,057 would be affected, or one-tenth of one percent.