On Feb. 20, Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) introduced Senate Bill (SB) 1210, which if enacted would establish the California DREAM loan program.
DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) programs focus specifically on aid to undocumented individuals who arrive in American borders as minors and continue undocumented residency into adulthood. Qualifying individuals fulfill conditional requirements and exhibit potential to succeed as established residents.
According to the original bill text, the DREAM loan program would enable a student attending a participating UC or CSU campus to receive a loan, referred to as a DREAM loan, through the program if the student satisfies specified requirements. These would include that the student be exempt from paying nonresident tuition or meet equivalent requirements adopted by the regents.
The DREAM loan program shares the ideas originated in the DREAM Act, which would provide conditional permanent residency to certain immigrants of good moral character who graduate from U.S. high schools, arrived in the U.S. as minors and lived in the country continuously for at least five years (prior to the bill’s enactment). If they were to complete two years in the military or two years at a four-year institution of higher learning, they would obtain temporary residency for a six-year period.
“We invest in California students from an early age and many of them have done what we’ve asked them to do: work hard, study and pursue a higher education,” Lara said in a press release. “If we’re serious about strengthening our economy then we must remove obstacles for our future workforce when they’re close to the graduation finish line. Continuing to invest in our future and ensuring that all students have access to the funding resources they need to succeed should be a top priority.”
This bill has raised controversy regarding general immigration rights issues and qualms about illegal citizenship.
“Personally I am not a big fan of the DREAM Act,” said Max Endepanz, a fourth-year philosophy major. “While I understand that this helps a lot of people who haven’t had a fair hand in life, as someone with parents who had to go through a lot for many years to legally immigrate, I just believe that the money could be more fairly spent on actual U.S. citizens.”
Some common arguments against the DREAM programs include that it fulfills the parents’ initial purpose for breaking the law originally, encourages more illegal immigration, absolves illegal aliens of their fundamental responsibilities as parents and that it doesn’t teach future adults to make correct decisions in place of their parents’ unwise choices.
“I think any bill involving undocumented people can be a contentious subject. However, with regards to higher education there is nothing more important than ensuring that those who want to attend a university for the betterment of society and themselves should be able to do so,” said Rafaela Bustamante, a second-year economics and international relations double major.
The students would, in fact, also be held accountable for repaying these fees. Should the recipient of DREAM loan funds be found in default of their loan, or failing to make a payment installation when due, the administrative body is obligated to withhold institutional services.
Lobby Corps, the research and lobbying arm of ASUCD, has decided to support SB 1210 and urges UC Davis as a whole to do the same.
“I think this is a fantastic bill,” said David Kuwabara, director of ASUCD Lobby Corps. “SB 1210 is exactly what Lobby Corps stands for, which is maximizing the accessibility of California Public Higher Education. I look forward to supporting this bill for the 2014 legislative session.”
However, their concerns tend to lie with possible textual and monetary discrepancies that the undocumented students are being treated unfairly.
“Our main concern with the bill was that debtors would be charged at an interest rate two percentage points higher than the federal student loan interest rate,” said Harley Litzelman, legislative aid for ASUCD Lobby Corps. “Undocumented students would be charged a higher interest rate than their documented peers. However, the most recent bill analysis criticized this fact, and after corresponding with UC State Governmental Relations, they also believe that that language will be removed. But we’d rather there be some loan program for undocumented students than none at all.”
“I think that the loan program is a great temporary program but does not meet many of the undocumented students’ needs,” said Steve Li, who asked to be identified as an ASPIRE student leader. “Many undocumented students live under the poverty line and this will only put them in debt after they graduate from college. In addition, not all undocumented students qualify for DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] and have a work permit. Without being able to work legally they will not be able to pay back the loan after college and this program does not take that into consideration. What we need are more resources and scholarships for students to navigate different financial options that will not put them in debt to finish college.”
Equalizing the undocumented and documented students would similarly promote an idea of inter-party mutualism, of everyone benefitting by assistance to the undocumented.
According to Maris Kali, a fourth-year history and political science double major, immigrants have a stereotype that they tend to choose more technical majors, compensating for a deficiency in the U.S. workforce.
“[Undocumented immigrants] are here regardless. Denying them federal aid and making higher education less accessible increases the likelihood of their living in poverty or turning to a life of crime,” Kali said. “If we can assist in collegiate funding, we can integrate them into the workforce instead.”
Some opinions regarding the DREAM loans are positive by interpreting them as making the situation beneficial for an otherwise helpless and controversial situation that cannot be alleviated for the time being.
“For many of the undocumented student cases, most came here without input and without a choice, and so I do not see why students who are qualified and students who want to pursue higher education should not be able to do so,” Bustamante said. “Putting aside the politics behind immigration and only focusing on education as a whole for the betterment of the country, this in my opinion is a good idea.”
SHANNON SMITH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.