Calif. bill would require resource centers for illegal immigrants

If enacted, the bill will join several other legislative efforts benefiting the state’s illegal residents, including in-state tuition and state-funded student aid.

California lawmakers recently passed a bill that would require nearly 100 state universities and community colleges to establish “Dream Resource Centers” for illegal immigrants on campus.

More than 100 colleges and universities in California could soon be required to establish special resource centers for students residing illegally in the United States.

Last Wednesday, Golden State lawmakers passed Assembly Bill (AB) 1366 requiring that California Community Colleges and California State Universities create on-campus centers dedicated to teaching illegal immigrants how to procure financial aid and take advantage of various academic opportunities. While the centers would not be required at the nine University of California schools, the bill does request that each establish their own.

According to the text of the bill, the purpose of constructing such centers is to increase enrollment and graduation rates among students who meet the requirements of AB 540—a state law passed in 2001 granting in-state tuition at public universities throughout the state to illegal aliens who attended California high schools for a minimum of three years.

“It is important as the undocumented student population continues to grow they are given the support needed,” Assemblywoman Patty Lopez (D-District 39) said in a recent statement. “By establishing Dream Resource Centers, students will be able to focus more on their academic goals and less on administrative and social barriers.”

At least six universities in the state, including but not limited to UC Davis, UCLA, Cal State Long Beach and Cal State Northridge have already debuted their own specialized centers for illegal immigrants. In late May, Cal State Los Angeles received a $1.6 million private endowment to open its own Dream Success Center.

According to AB 1366, already-established Dream Success Centers provide “informational workshops, legal clinics… information on programs available to undocumented immigrants… peer mentoring and support services” aimed at expanding students’ professional development and “employment opportunities.”

The legislative push for on-campus resource centers is the latest attempt by California lawmakers to assist illegal immigrants in their pursuit of higher education.

Beyond receiving in-state tuition, illegal immigrants in California can receive state-funded student aid and are eligible at designated public universities to benefit from special loan programs. Democratic lawmakers have also proposed a separate work-study program for illegal immigrants to expand the types of financial assistance available to them.

In May, UC President and former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano hosted the first ever national summit for “undocumented youth leaders, immigration advocates, researchers, government officials, artists and funders from across the country,” according to the Daily Californian.The conference took place in Oakland, Calif. and stirred up controversy after Napolitano was heckled by illegal immigrants in the crowd and left to address a half-empty auditorium.

“We demand that you listen to us,” one heckler reportedly yelled, according to the San Jose Mercury News. “You cannot make decisions about our lives without knowing our personal struggled.”

In late October 2013, Napolitano allocated $5 million of non-state, non-tuition funds to expand university resources available to illegal immigrants attending California colleges and universities.

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