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The California Dream Act of 2011

The California Dream Act of 2011 was introduced on January 11, 2011 by Assembly Member Gilbert Cedillo. Unlike the Federal DREAM Act, the California Dream Act would not change the legal status of undocumented students. The California Dream Act would allow some undocumented students (the beneficiaries of Assembly Bill 540) an opportunity to compete for scholarships or state financial aid.

What is the California Dream Act? The California Dream Act has been divided into two parts:

  1. Assembly Bill 130 [AB 130], which passed in the California Senate Appropriations Committee on 11 July and was signed into California law by Governor Jerry Brown on 25 July, 2011, and
  2. Assembly Bill 131 [AB 131].

These things have changed:

  1. Currently California’s Assembly Bill 540 (AB 540) law was meant to give undocumented (and some U.S. Citizens) the right to pay in-state tuition if:
    • They had attended a California high school for a minimum of 3 years,
    • Had graduated from a California high school or had obtained a GED,
    • Have registered, or are currently enrolled, in a public institution in California (Community College, CSU or UC),
    • AND file an affidavit stating that the student has or will file an application to legalize his or her immigration status (if undocumented).

THE CHANGE: As of the passing of AB 130, an undocumented student must have attended a “secondary school…for three or more years, at least one of which shall have been at high school.” In this case “technical schools” and “adult schools” would qualify as part of the three years.

  1. More importantly, AB 130 would make undocumented students that qualify for AB 540 “eligible to receive a scholarship that is derived from non-state funds, received for the purpose of scholarships.” In other words, undocumented students that went to a California school for a minimum of 3 years are eligible, under AB 130, for institutional scholarships—for scholarships provided by public colleges or universities. AB 130 would not allow undocumented students to compete for state-funded grants. It would only allow some undocumented students an opportunity to apply and/or compete for institutional scholarships.

  2. On that note, the other part of the California Dream Act, AB 131, would allow undocumented students that qualify for AB 540 an opportunity to get state financial aid. According to AB 131, a person who qualifies for AB 540 (legally coded as Section 68130.5 in the CA Education Code) “is eligible to apply for, and participate in, any student financial aid program administered by the State of California to the full extent permitted by federal law.”

AB 131, allows some undocumented students the opportunity to receive financial aid from the state of California but NOT from the U.S. government. In this bill, however, Mr Cedillo also states that undocumented students are eligible for “Competitive Cal Grant A and B Awards” only if “funding remains available after all California students [residents and citizens] that have received Competitive Cal Grant A and B Awards that they are eligible for;” thus creating a support base for an educated population that will surely benefit local, state and federal entities. These bills are making their way through the Assembly. They are first looked at in the Committee on Higher Education in the Assembly, then in the Assembly Floor and on to the Senate. The process terminates with the signing or veto by Governor Brown. So far AB 130 has passed and Governor Brown has signed it into law.


We can all help by contacting our Assembly Members and Senators. If you don’t know who they are you can find out here. You can also contact Governor Brown by phone at (916) 445-2841 or email him here.

See the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund for more info

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