The California Supreme Court made the right decision in upholding the state’s Dream Act of 2001. The law allows all students to pay in-state tuition rates at California’s public universities if they have attended a state high school for three years and have graduated, regardless of their legal status.
The idea behind the Dream Act is to increase educational opportunities for young people who were brought to this country before age 16 by their parents. Many of these students have little or no knowledge of the country of their birth and have adjusted to life in the United States.
Before the Dream Act (AB540) was enacted, students who were illegally in this country faced deportation even though they had no say in how they came to the United States, lived here most of their lives and had succeeded in high school.
AB540 was co-authored by Democrat Marco Firebaugh and Republican Abel Maldonado. It received broad bipartisan support, passing in the Assembly 57-15, and Senate 27-7.
Unfortunately, Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Carlsbad, sued to overturn AB540. He thought it was unfair that his children, who graduated from high schools in Virginia, had to pay out-of-state tuition.
But the state’s highest court rightly ruled that AB540 is based on attendance and graduation from a California high school, not place of residence. Had Bilbray prevailed, several thousand students would have faced tuition bills that could have forced them out of college, and his children still would have had to pay the out-of-state rate.
Opponents of the Dream Act argue that the state cannot afford to educate illegal immigrants at a time when funding has been cut and legal citizens are struggling.
But fewer than 1 percent of UC and CSU students benefit from the law, and only 406 out of 220,000 UC students were illegal immigrants.
Besides, the Dream Act does not interfere with federal regulations on immigration, which determine who is admitted into the country or who may stay here.
Control of immigration remains a federal responsibility. Those who are upset with illegal immigration should address their representatives in Congress, rather than attacking the Dream Act.
California is one of 10 states that have laws similar to the Dream Act. We believe the other 40 states should, too.
It makes no sense to penalize young people whose legal status is not of their own making.
There is nothing to be gained by placing them in an uncertain position about their futures, when they could be well-educated, productive members of society.