Education for undocumented students shouldn’t be a pipe dream

Hansook Oh

Last month, the California State Assembly re-introduced two bills representing the California Dream Act. Assembly Bill 130, which allows qualified non-resident students access to university-sponsored scholarships was passed in April. This week, the house will again debate AB 131, which would allow qualified non-resident students the opportunity to compete for state grants.
Voting the California Dream Act into law is necessary for maintaining educational fairness and will ultimately benefit our economy.
Under current law, non-resident students—which includes undocumented students as well as students from out of state—who have attended at least three years of secondary school in California are exempt from paying out of state tuition, but cannot access university scholarships or state financial aid.
This exemption, made possible through AB 540, benefits citizens and non-citizens alike, however the law was challenged in court last October in a wave of anti-immigrant fervor aggravated by an unstable economy.
This time around, opponents of AB 130 and AB 131 are again scapegoating  undocumented Americans as the reason why our economy is going down the toilet.
According to the Daily Californian, Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly expressed his opposition to AB 130 though it passed with a majority.
“We have limited resources; these measures would expand the pool of people competing for those resources and will essentially act as one more incentive for people to come here illegally,” Donnelly said in an email. “…I am disturbed to see the agenda of some legislators is not to address the State’s most pressing problems, but instead to advocate policies that continue California’s slow slouching toward Socialism.”
Contrary to Donnelly, lack of access to education is one of the state’s most pressing problems for the country’s most vulnerable people, who contribute equally as much to capitalism as documented Americans do.
According to the 2000 census, one in seven American workers are undocumented, do not have access to resources like medical care or social security and make up a significant portion of the lowest income bracket. Undocumented Americans contribute to the building of capitalism because they are used as cheap labor and still pay sales tax, however they cannot participate fully in society because they are deprived of democratic power and rights and privileges that come with citizenship.
Undocumented Americans deserve to compete for the same resources as documented Americans, especially during this time of financial uncertainty. All undocumented students already in the university system through AB 540 are on a path to gain citizenship, so investing in them now is investing in the future of America.
Through increased access to education, these to-be citizens have an opportunity to create wealth, contribute to the economy and back to social programs like the California Dream Act.