Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed the California Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act for the third time in three years last week, once again blocking undocumented students from obtaining campus grants and scholarships.
The D.R.E.A.M. Act, written by democratic State Senator Gilbert Cedillo of Los Angeles, would have allowed undocumented students to seek financial aid dispensed by the UCs, CSUs and community colleges. Under this year’s version of the bill, undocumented students would have been unable to use any state financial aid, including the Cal Grant program.
With the governor’s veto, undocumented students will remain ineligible for need-based financial aid.
This is the third time Senator Cedillo has attempted to secure financial aid for undocumented students. An original bill was first introduced in 2005, and Schwarzenegger refused to sign it in both 2006 and 2007. With this new veto, the bill cannot appear again on the legislature’s agenda until next year.
In a statement, Gov. Schwarzenegger said he rejected the bill due to economic concerns.
“I share the author’s goal of making affordable education available to all California students, but given the precarious fiscal condition the state faces at this time, it would not be prudent to place additional demands on our limited financial aid resources as specified in this bill,” Schwarzenegger said.
However, Christy Wolfe, spokeswoman for Senator Cedillo, said the governor’s veto serves only to evade solving the problem of access to higher education for undocumented students.
“I think it’s a disservice by the governor to use non-related issues,” Wolfe said. “Either he supports the expansion of higher education or he doesn’t.”
Wolfe added that, while saddened by the governor’s decision, Cedillo will continue to promote the bill in the future.
“Every year we remain hopeful,” Wolfe said. “We have a broad coalition supporting this bill, from the business community to the higher education community… [The bill] is a critical issue and remains a critical issue. We are not producing enough college grads to reach market demand. We’re going to want to keep and create jobs here. Who’s going to fill those jobs?”
Paulina Abustan, a third-year political science major and University of California Associated Students member, said she found the governor’s decision unsurprising since he had rejected it twice before.
“I was sort of expecting him to turn it down,” Abustan said. “But the support is growing. More people are aware of the D.R.E.A.M. Act. It’s sad because everyone supports it but the governor, and he keeps making excuses… But support is growing, and I think it’s building momentum.”
Currently, under another bill passed in 2002 – Assembly Bill 540 – undocumented students who attended a California high school for three or more years, graduated from a California high school and agreed to apply for lawful immigration status are allowed to pay in-state tuition rates at California colleges and universities.
However, a state appellate court recently ruled that AB 540 is in violation of federal law. The case will return to court for further proceedings.