Just before he put out the call last week denouncing the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators as local conservative Republican Phil Paule asked residents to help him repeal the California Dream Act.
Paule, a French Valley resident seeking the California Legislature’s 67th District seat that includes Murrieta, supports the Stop AB 131/Dream Act campaign backed by Inland Empire Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks).
Paule’s vowing to collect 10,000 signatures from the Riverside County area in an attempt to repeal the Act, and he’s invited local residents to learn more about the effort during a public meeting he’s scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight at
brought forward by Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), was introduced as two bills this year: AB 130 was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on July 25; it allows undocumented students to apply for non-state-funded scholarships. AB 131, which was signed by the governor on Oct. 9, allows undocumented students to apply for public financial aid to attend California public colleges and universities.
In order to qualify for the scholarships and aid, students must attend a California high school for a minimum of three years and they must graduate in California. They also have to show they are in the process of applying to legalize their immigration status, as well as demonstrate financial need and meet academic standards.
The California State University and University of California systems, along with the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, have supported the Dream Act.
But Paule, who currently serves as District Director for Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Vista), said he will work hard to repeal the law.
“The Dream Act is not about who is allowed to get an education but rather it creates a special class of students -- in this case students in this country illegally -- who are having their education funded at the expense of the taxpayers of California,” he states on his website. “The sad truth is that most illegal persons that California taxpayers will educate will never be able to obtain a job in California due to the E-Verify program.”
But the E-Verify program is a moot point -- for now. Last month Governor Jerry Brown signed the Employment Acceleration Act of 2011, or AB 1236, which prohibits the state, or a city, county, or special district from forcing an employer to use the system except when required by federal law.
E-Verify is a federal online system that lets employers verify whether people they hire are authorized to work in the United States.
In his bid for the State Assembly in 2012, Paule is running against Lake Elsinore City Council members Bob Magee and Melissa Melendez, and Murrieta Valley Unified School District board member Ken Dickson, all Republicans.
In July 2010 when Melendez was mayor, she and Magee took a stand against illegal immigration when they voted to adopt an ordinance requiring businesses in the city to utilize E-Verify. They also voted to adopt a proclamation supporting Arizona’s “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act” (Arizona SB 1070).
Melendez said she doesn’t support the Dream Act.
“California needs to focus on job creation and getting its finances in order. The current Dream Act does absolutely nothing to address those issues,” she said. “I have grave concern that the Dream Act allows people to jump in front of the line ahead of those who have followed the law.”
Politicians in the Republican-dominated Inland Empire have generally taken a tough stance on illegal immigration. Donnelly has said he believes the Dream Act could drain funds needed for U.S. citizens and could cause more immigrants to enter the country illegally in search of education.
Cal Grants, community college fee waivers and institutional aid to the tune of $40 million is what AB 131 is expected to cost the state in its first year of implementation, according to Conrado Terrazas, communications director for Cedillo.
Cedillo contends that repealing the Dream Act would hurt California in the long run.
“Our economy is in need of an educated workforce and the bill will help us achieve that,” he said in an Oct. 24 written response to Donnelly’s repeal efforts. “ … the California Dream Act that puts us on a path toward economic stability by investing in our youth.”
“They are the cream of the crop,” Terrazas said of the undocumented students who make it to a higher-learning institution. “They got the good grades, they took the SATs, and they got accepted into college.”
Terrazas said the students were brought to this country as minor children and are therefore here through no fault of their own.
“They’ve worked hard against all odds. Let’s not throw that investment away,” he said, arguing that the students will contribute down the road.
“They’ll have a ripple effect on the economy,” he said. “Better they become doctors and architects than work at McDonalds.”
AB 130 takes effect Jan. 1, 2012, and AB 131 takes effect Jan. 1, 2013, so college grads who receive state financial aid likely won’t be in the workforce until 2017.
“Who knows what our immigration policies will be then,” Terrazas added.
John Levin, professor of higher education at UC Riverside, supports the Dream Act, but says it doesn’t go far enough. Students who apply for aid through the Act are identified as undocumented and therefore subject to deportation, which Levin criticizes. He’s also concerned that community colleges will see a greater burden placed on them as a result of the new law. State funding for community colleges is in the neighborhood of $5,000 to $6,000 per student, compared to about $12,000 per CSU student and $20,000 per UC student, Levin said.
Currently, the UC and CSU systems have a combined total of approximately 700,000 students, whereas community colleges are at around 1.6 million total students, Levin said.
While he points out flaws, Levin said the Dream Act is ultimately about creating a better society.
“Educated people have the ability to contribute,” he explained. Lower crime, a larger tax base, fewer unemployed and a healthier population are all associated with higher education, he said.
Levin has studied the issue of undocumented students in the nation’s education system and published his findings in the book, “Nontraditional Students and Community Colleges: The Conflict of Justice and Neoliberalism” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). During his research, Levin said undocumented college students he interviewed were generally highly motivated, very resilient and able to withstand hardships.
As for finding work after college graduation, Levin contends the new law opens the door to those who might not pursue legal status otherwise.
“Without the Dream Act, there won’t be a road to citizenship for these students,” he said. “There is no light at the end of the tunnel.”
Levin also argues that undocumented high school students will be more likely to graduate if they have options to improve their lives. The Dream Act, he said, is highly symbolic.
“It shows that access to education is valued,” he said. “It shows education is valued.”