Today, Assemblymember Gilbert Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) introduced the California DREAM Act, which is made up of two state assembly bills that could enable undocumented students to apply for financial aid from public institutes of higher education – the Universities of California, California State Universities and community colleges.
The CA DREAM Act was first introduced in 2006 and reached the Governor’s desk three times, but former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill each time, denying thousands of undocumented students support for higher education in California.
However, this year, we’re hopeful that the CA DREAM Act will pass because the newly elected Governor Jerry Brown had expressed support during his recent campaign. If the CA DREAM Act passes, it will be a huge victory not only for the immigrant community and for young undocumented immigrant students, but for all of California and America.
It is crucial that we pass the CA DREAM Act because too many undocumented students are periodically forced to drop out of college due to financial difficulties. In order to pay for school, many undocumented students work many hours in addition to studying and applying for private scholarships. In short, it is a huge burden for undocumented students to pay tuition fees without access to the same financial aid that most hard working students are granted and that all hard working students deserve.
Like many other undocumented students, I wasn’t able to attend any universities immediately after I graduated from high school. Instead, I enrolled in a community college while I worked a full-time job at a Japanese restaurant. Eventually, with my savings and support from my family, I was able to pay tuition through two-years in community college before I transferred to UC Berkeley.
Unlike community college fees, UC tuition fees were much higher, even higher than I expected. Worst of all, there was an 8% fee increase across the UC system recently, not to mention the hikes of over 30% that had happened a few months ago.
Fortunately, I was able to pay the first semester tuition fees through private scholarships and support from my family and friends. As a single parent, my mother has to work twelve hours a day, seven days a week, sacrificing her time and energy to support my education. Like my mother, my older sister works full-time. Until recently, she attended community college, but she had to drop out because of financial difficulties. And yet I’m struggling even with support from both my sister and my mother. Depending on my situation, I may or may not be able to enroll at UC Berkeley next semester.
Therefore, we need to pass the California DREAM Act this year. If the CA DREAM Act passes, so many more bright students will be able to attend school without so many worries and obstacles due to money. In the end, passing the California DREAM Act is a step towards fixing the broken immigration system. Give us a chance to pursue our higher education in California.