Jerry Brown eases path for undocumented college students to receive aid

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Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Monday allowing undocumented college students to access private financial aid for college, calling the new law “another piece of an investment in people.” But he said he was not yet ready to commit to signing a second piece of the Dream Act, which would provide public funding for those students.

Brushing over the politics of illegal immigration during a ceremony at the Los Angeles City College library, Brown talked about the bill within the broader context of maintaining education funding during the budget crisis.

“We are facing many obstacles and adversaries,” Brown said. “The debate is very clear: shrivel public service, shrink back, retrench, retreat from higher education, from schools, from the investment in people; or make the investment. So this is one piece of a very important mosaic, which is a California that works for everyone and a California who understands where our strength is.

“It’s not just in having some extra money to go to a movie or to buy a flat screen television from China, it’s also being able to go to a community college or a state college and being able to pay for it,” he said as the crowd cheered and applauded.


Proponents of the California Dream Act -- which was vetoed multiple times by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -- hailed Brown’s approval of AB 130 as an important first step that will allow illegal immigrants access to privately funded scholarships beginning next year.

The author of the new law, Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), has sponsored a second bill, AB 131, that would make illegal immigrants eligible for Cal Grants and other forms of state tuition aid. He said he hopes to win the Legislature’s approval of that component later this summer.

Opponents of the legislation say it would unfairly take scholarship funds away from students who are U.S. citizens. And the Dream Act became a key point of debate between Brown and his Republican opponent Meg Whitman during the gubernatorial campaign last year.

Brown said he would sign the Dream Act and called opponents “wrong morally and humanly.”

On Monday, Cedillo praised Brown as a “man of his word.”

“You’ve had some great days as a governor, but I think this is going to be one of those days that really sets a milestone because it’s so forward-looking,” Cedillo said.

Speaking to reporters after the event, Brown said he viewed the other component of the Dream Act providing public funds for undocumented students “favorably,” but didn’t want to “scoop” himself. “I think we ought to wait until it gets to my desk,” Brown said.


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-- Maeve Reston