The United States of America is a land that couldn’t exist as it does today without the contributions of people from other parts of the world.
Throughout history, people of all different cultures, ethnic backgrounds and religions came to this land in search of their own version of the “American Dream,” which James Truslow Adams defined as, “Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”
Unfortunately, in the 21st century, it seems that America’s immigration-based history has been forgotten by many different groups.
As a nation built by immigrants, there needs to be a serious and abrupt change in how we treat undocumented immigrants in our country today.
The passage of SB 1070, a law that subjects undocumented immigrants in Arizona to the searches and apprehensions similar to those that criminals are subjected to, has made Arizona an unfriendly and unwelcoming place for immigrants.
These types of searches aren’t the only abuses undocumented individuals have to deal with.
In California and across the country, we see immigrants facing difficulties on the educational front.
Though undocumented immigrants have the access to Cal Grants, there are financial gaps in educational prices of up to $8,000 that some are unable to overcome.
Undocumented residents must be granted the same opportunities as the rest of us. We as Americans cannot logically expect someone who does not have the same resources as U.S. citizens to reach the same level of success.
Fortunately, undocumented immigrants moved a step closer to having the same opportunities on Sept. 28 when Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1210. SB 1210 will allow undocumented immigrants to receive college loans. This program will operate through the DREAM Act program, and will be implemented at all University of California and California State University campuses.
Linda Leu, California policy and research director for Young Invincibles, said she supports the approval of the legislation.
“Higher education is critical for young people looking to advance in today’s economy, but young undocumented Californians haven’t had equal access to higher education,” Leu said.
California has taken steps in helping immigrants attain an education by allowing undocumented immigrants who have graduated from California high schools to be eligible for Cal Grant scholarships, as well as in-state tuition.
The signing of SB 1210 will only benefit California. With this bill implemented, undocumented immigrants can get a college education easier. Then,they can become contributing members to society by helping out their community or our nation with the skills they have acquired from college.
“This bill will grow our college-educated workforce and make good on the promise that a college degree is possible for all hard working California students, regardless of immigration status,” Sen. Ricardo Lara said in a statement to the Sacramento Bee.
This bill will prompt undocumented immigrants to look at college as a financial possibility, and it gives them the hopes of providing a comfortable living for themselves in the future.
Business major Martin Licea, 22, is the son of two undocumented immigrants. He said there are positive benefits to making education more accessible to undocumented students.
“Immigrants will always be grateful towards the U.S. because this country gave them an opportunity and they will be able to come back and help,” Licea said. “The more people that are educated in this country, it really can’t hurt. In the long run, I think it can help out the economy.”
SB 1210 will cost UCs $3.6 million and CSUs $1.5 million annually.
The state general fund contributes matching amounts to both funds, according to an analysis from the Assembly Appropriations Committee reported in the San Jose Mercury News.
There are limitations to SB 1210.
No student will be able to exceed the financial need of more than $4,000 within any academic year. Students will also be barred from receiving more than $20,000 at any one institution.
Refusing undocumented immigrants the right to utilize loans to better themselves is unfair considering they came here for the same reason that our ancestors did; to attain a better life. SB 1210 might not be perfect, but it’s a great start for evening the educational playing field.