US Immigration Reform News: California DREAM Loan Program Moves Farther in State Senate
California may pass a bill to establish an education loan program that would benefit undocumented young people. The law has made an important hurdle and comes closer to Gov. Brown's desk.
Sen. Ricardo Lara (D- Bell Gardens) introduced the bill, known as S.B. 1210, on Feb. 20. If it passes, it would create the California DREAM loan program, according to the California Aggie, and its primary aim is to assist undocumented young folks who arrived in the country as minors and who want to study at participating UC and CSU campuses, provided they qualify.
Similar to the federal DREAM Act stalled in Congress, the bill would provide conditional permanent residency to those enrolled who meet certain qualifications. They must be immigrants of good moral character who graduate from U.S. high schools, arrived in the U.S. as minors and lived in the country continuously for at least five years (prior to the bill's enactment), according to the Aggie.
"We invest in California students from an early age and many of them have done what we've asked them to do: work hard, study and pursue a higher education," Lara said in a press release, reports the Aggie. "If we're serious about strengthening our economy then we must remove obstacles for our future workforce when they're close to the graduation finish line. Continuing to invest in our future and ensuring that all students have access to the funding resources they need to succeed should be a top priority."
However, some do not approve of the legislation. According to Aggie, opponents of the bill argue that it would achieve what the parents of undocumented immigrants wanted and would encourage: more illegal crossings.
Still, the bill has moved forward in an unexpected turn. According to Reuters, California lawmakers advanced the bill through the Senate right before the summer recess. The bill would give loans of up to $4,000 to those who qualify.
Reuters reported that the bill has caused a sort of divide that separates the more liberal Democrats willing to use the projected budget surplus for social programs, including this one. Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed to use the surplus to pay off debts and establish a "Rainy Day" fund. Nonetheless, activists and supports argue the bill would be beneficial, and an analysis does state that it would be cost-neutral when students begin paying back the loans -- the state, however, would need $4 million to start it.
Lara had another bill to expand Medi-Cali, which he put on hold, but another one of his bills passed a Senate committee in late April. According to the Los Angeles Times, the bill, which passed by an 8-0 vote, would put to a vote the repeal of Proposition 227. The measure, passed in 1998, made education in California English only.
However, Lara believes its time for bilingual education to return to the state. Supporters argue its time for California to move with the times, while detractors say that students, particularly immigrants, will not learn English. Lara proposed the bill be put on the 2016 ballot.
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