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Immigration Pushed To The Forefront Again.... Thanks! To Everyone Who Has Propelled This Issue To Its' Rightful Position. Years Of Hard Work Are Paying Off.....Keep Up The Good Work!......
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Old 03-16-2011, 12:03 PM
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Default Committee OKs college financial aid for illegal immigrants

Committee OKs college financial aid for illegal immigrants
A state legislative committee Tuesday passed two bills that would make illegal-immigrant students eligible for some types of financial aid.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed three earlier versions of the measures, but backers are optimistic this year because Gov. Jerry Brown campaigned in support of what is known as the California Dream Act.
Jorge Fierros, 31, of Riverside, was one of several Inland students who traveled to Sacramento to lobby legislators to support the bills. Fierros has been at Riverside City College for more than four years because, with the full-time factory, construction and restaurant jobs he's had, he has been unable to take more than a class or two each semester. As an undocumented immigrant, he is ineligible for government aid.
The bills "would help me focus more on my academics than having to work so much on the side to help me pay for tuition," said Fierros, who hopes to transfer to Cal State San Bernardino in the fall to study criminal justice.
The bills passed the higher education committee along party lines, with Democrats supporting it and Republicans voting against.
"The governor continues to support the principles behind the Dream Act," said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Brown.
Inland legislator
One of the legislators who voted against the measures was Inland Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks. On March 29, the higher education committee is scheduled to consider his proposal to end in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. That bill faces a tough road in the Democratic-controlled legislature.
Illegal-immigrant students who spend three years in and graduate from California high schools have been eligible for in-state tuition since 2001. That 2001 law also granted in-state tuition to some citizens and legal residents who would otherwise be ineligible.
Students who benefit from the law are ineligible for all but some private financial aid. One of the bills that passed Tuesday, AB 131, would give those students access to state-funded financial aid. The other, AB 130, would make students eligible for tens of millions of dollars in private scholarship money that each year is funneled through public college and university foundations. Current law bars illegal-immigrant students from receiving that money.
UC believes its undocumented-immigrant students would receive between $2 million and $3 million a year under AB 131, said David Alcocer, associate director for student financial support for the UC system. Legal residents and citizens would be eligible for about $4 million, Alcocer said. Only an estimated 80 undocumented students would be eligible for the private scholarships under AB 130, he said.
Cal State and the community college system do not have estimates on the number of their illegal-immigrant students or the financial effect of the legislation. UC estimates there were about 600 illegal-immigrant undergraduate students in 2008-09 on its nine undergraduate campuses.
UC in favor
UC sent letters Monday in support of the two bills, saying that the lack of financial aid serves as a barrier for undocumented students to attend UC campuses.
"Right now, our hands are completely tied," said Sheryl Hayes, director of financial aid for UC Riverside. "We can't offer any assistance whatsoever."
Donnelly, who founded the anti-illegal-immigration Minuteman Civil Defense Corps in 2005, said that, rather than offering more assistance to illegal immigrants, the state should repeal the 2001 law on in-state tuition. It could save the state tens of millions of dollars a year during a severe budget crisis, he said.
"At a time when we're fighting over funds and eliminating access to college by driving up tuition, decreasing the number of classes offered and decreasing the number of spots, we should be putting our money where our values are," he said.
In-state tuition saves UC undergraduate students about $23,000 a year and typical Cal State students about $9,000 annually. UC estimates that eligible undocumented students get a combined $10 million annual break on their tuition. But Alcocer said the cost to the state is probably lower, because many of those students likely cannot afford out-of-state tuition.
Maritza Angeles said she might not be able to realize her dream of medical school even with in-state tuition unless she receives financial aid.
RCC rally
Angeles, 19, of Riverside, spoke Tuesday during a small rally at Riverside City College in support of the bills.
Angeles, who came to the United States from Mexico at age 3, said she was accepted to Cal Poly Pomona and two private colleges last year. Instead, she enrolled at RCC because, without major financial aid, she couldn't afford to attend a four-year university.
Angeles said her parents -- one is a legal resident, the other undocumented -- have always paid taxes, and their money funds the university system. She said that if she becomes a neurologist, as she hopes, she would contribute more to the state's coffers in taxes than if she were forced to take a job that doesn't require a college education.
"In the long run, all the (undocumented) students who graduate would make revenue for the state," she said.
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