Thursday, November 22

Dream Act’s deadline near

Student groups showed support for the bill through facilitation of letters and calls to governor on Bruin Walk

Approaching students with letters and prepaid cell phones on Bruin Walk, students made a final push this week to pass the California Dream Act, a bill that would make financial aid available to undocumented students.

The students tabling were members of Ideas UCLA, a group that helps undocumented students pursue higher education on campus.

Fabiola Inzunza, a fourth-year international development studies student and Ideas co-chair, said that under the current policy, many undocumented students are deterred from seeking higher education by the prospect of leaving college with the burden of heavy student debt since they are currently ineligible for federal financial aid.

“A lot of (undocumented) students who are accepted don’t come because they can’t afford it,” Inzunza said.

The California Dream Act seeks to change this by making eligible for financial aid those undocumented students who have a high school diploma and attended a California high school for more than three years.

The federal DREAM Act proposes to grant conditional legal status for six years to attend college to those undocumented students with a high school diploma who have lived in the United States for at least five years.

Under Assembly Bill 540 in 2002, California began to grant in-state tuition to non-residents that graduated from a California high school.

Lizeth Flores, a second-year international development studies student, said the current bill was revised to address the governor’s concerns and passed in the Assembly and Senate.

Gov. Schwarzenegger has until Oct. 14 to sign the bill, let it pass, or veto it.

“I hope he will sign it because his concerns have been addressed,” Inzunza said.

The California Dream Act was introduced in 2005 and reintroduced in January 2007 after Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed a previous version in September 2006.

Kyle Kleckner, a fourth-year political science student and president of Bruin Democrats, said he supports the bill because he believes all qualified students should be able to afford a college education.

“I think it’s important that the act pass because we want everyone in California to have a quality education,” Kleckner said.

Activities this week hosted by Ideas included a speaker event on Wednesday in Meyerhoff Park outside Kerckhoff Hall in which student speakers expressed support for the bill. Throughout the week on Bruin Walk, Members of Ideas and Samahang Pilipino encouraged students to call the governor’s office and sign petitions and letters of support addressed to Schwarzenegger.

Flores added that students were offered the use of prepaid cell phones with the number of the governor’s office already dialed for them to facilitate the process.

Members also passed out letters of support for students to sign during classroom presentations.

On Wednesday, student representatives from Ideas and Samahang Pilipino delivered over 7,700 letters from students and community members to the governor’s office in Los Angeles.

Members of Ideas and the University of California Student Association lobbied in Sacramento over the summer and spoke with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Gov. Schwarzenegger.

Inzunza said she had the opportunity to speak with Gov. Schwarzenegger about the bill in Sacramento last summer and found him “very receptive to the issue.”

Inzunza said the number of undocumented students entering California universities has grown ever since AB 540 was implemented.

Gregory Cendana, a fourth-year sociology student and board member for Samahang Pilipino said immigrant students add diversity to the university community and everyone benefits from having a diverse student body.

“All students who come from different identities and socioeconomic statuses … continue to add to the type of dialogue and experiences students have on campus,” Cendana said.

Flores said the campaign has received overwhelming support from community organizations, community members, students and politicians including Barack Obama, and she hopes the governor will support it as well.

“We hope that he listens to the community, the people of this state,” Flores said.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.