DREAM Act Passes in California!

California is one step closer to making the DREAM Act a reality. The State Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would allow undocumented students to apply for financial aid and scholarships from the state.

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Under the bill, which the State Assembly is expected to approve next week, passed 22-11 along party lines in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Once approved, undocumented students will be eligible to apply for state money after legal residents have done so, if they attended California high schools for three or more years. Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign it if and when it clears the Assembly.

But the state is hardly the first to forge its own legislation in the absence of federal comprehensive immigration reform or passage of the federal DREAM Act—a bill that has languished in Congress for a decade (the latest version passed in the House in December, 2010 but stalled in the Senate). In 2001, Texas became the first state to pass legislation allowing in-state tuition for undocumented immigrant students, followed by California, Utah, New York, Washington, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Maryland and Connecticut in the decade since.

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Under these state laws, undocumented students are eligible for in-state tuition if they graduate from state high schools, have been state residents for at least two years and apply to a state college or university. Some laws require students to sign an affidavit promising to pursue legal status. Maryland’s law, passed this year, requires students to complete 60 credits at a Maryland community college and to prove that they and their parents paid income taxes for the previous three years.

At least one state, however, has done the reverse. In 2008, Oklahoma ended its in-state tuition and financial aid for undocumented students and allowed them to enroll in colleges only after meeting special requirements. Since 2006, several states have banned in-state tuition, including Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, South Carolina and Indiana.

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