Moral Low Ground

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‘The Moral High Ground’: Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Dream Act, Allows ‘Illegal’ Immigrants to Receive College Financial Aid

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed the Dream Act, a piece of legislation that will allow undocumented immigrants attending colleges and universities in the state to receive government financial aid.

According to the Los Angeles Times, such students will be eligible to receive Cal-grant financial assistance beginning in 2013. Undocumented students will also be eligible for institutional grants from the University of California and California State University systems. They may also receive fee waivers from the California community college system.

“Going to college is a dream that promises intellectual excitement and creative thinking,” Brown said. “The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us.”

Governor Brown’s move has been hailed by progressive lawmakers, immigrant rights advocates and others. While states like Arizona and Alabama have enacted harsh laws designed to rid those states of “illegal” immigrants, California has taken a more humane approach to the complex problem of undocumented immigration, and the Dream Act acknowledges that young people who are in the United States through no fault of their own deserve a shot at the excellent educational opportunities afforded to students in the state.

“After having invested 12 years in the high school education of these young men and women, who are here through no fault of their own, it’s the smartest thing for us to do to permit these students to get scholarships and be treated like every other student,” Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), the bill’s author, told the Los Angeles Times. “We need an educated workforce. This is good for California’s economy  and California’s future.”

Republican lawmakers slammed the governor’s action. Assemblyman Cameron Smyth (R- Santa Clarita) says that up to 40,000 “illegal” immigrants might now apply for financial aid from a pool of funds that will not be increased.

“Therefore, for every dollar awarded to an undocumented student from that pot of money, a dollar would have to be taken away from a citizen or a legal immigrant,” Smyth told the Los Angeles Times. “I believe that is wrong.”

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