This week Governor Jerry Brown signed California’s groundbreaking and controversial Dream Act, which allows illegal immigrant students to receive in-state tuition, apply for financial aid and merit-based scholarships to help pay their way through college. With its passage, California became the 11th state to pass their own version of the national Dream Act awaiting passage in Congress.

What is the Dream Act?

According to the Immigration and Policy center, the Dream Act was created to address a very specific problem in our country:

Each year, approximately 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school, many at the top of their classes, but cannot go to college, join the military, work, or otherwise pursue their dreams.  They belong to the 1.5 generation—any (first generation) immigrants brought to the United States at a young age who were largely raised in this country and therefore share much in common with second-generation Americans.  These students are culturally American, growing up here and often having little attachment to their country of birth.  They tend to be bicultural and fluent in English.  Many don’t even know that they are undocumented immigrants until they apply for a driver’s license or college, and then learn they lack Social Security numbers and other necessary legal documents.

The national Dream Act has failed to pass in Congress due to the hot topic of illegal immigration. Many Americans believe, and have expressed their opinions to their congressmen, that illegal immigrants should not be rewarded for breaking the law. The proponents of the Dream Act believe that these students should not be penalized because their parents came to this country illegally.

Four states (California, New Mexico, Texas and New York) with high illegal immigrant populations have already made it possible for these students to pursue their college dreams by passing their own versions of the Dream Act. Seven other states (Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin) have followed suit. There are currently nine other states (Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Oregon, and Rhode Island) considering similar legislation.

Why do some oppose the Dream Act?

Opponents of the Dream Act insist that this act will create political momentum in Washington for amnesty for all illegal immigrants. It’s not just lawmakers opposing the passage of this legislation. Students have become increasingly vocal about their disapproval.

At Texas A&M, a student group recently started a petition against the Dream Act in Texas, urging Governor Perry to call a special session to repeal the legislation:

“It is outrageous that Texas A&M, because of Gov. Perry, is awarding those who violated the law with in-state tuition and financial aid,” said the chairman of the Texas Aggie Conservatives, Steven Schroeder, in the Texas Tribune “The Texas government, especially in these troubling economic times, should not be subsidizing the higher education of adults who cannot legally work in the United States.”

Students have also voiced their concern about these illegal immigrants taking away the merit-aid and scholarships from those who are currently citizens of this country. In their minds, and in the minds of many others, this is categorically unfair.

In California, the students’ reactions were mixed regarding the Dream Act’s passage. Many voiced their fear of backlash if they spoke out on the record against the legislation. Others felt that since the students would be required to obtain citizenship, they didn’t have a problem with its passage. But there were also some that felt that any illegal immigrant shouldn’t receive anything from the government due to the fact

What do you think?

Should illegal immigrants be allowed to receive in-state tuition and financial aid just like regular citizens? Does this penalize the foreign students who come to this country to study legally? Do you think they should be required to become citizens before applying to college?

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