California Assemblyman Tim Donnelly is leading the charge to stop AB 131, the California Dream Act. Donnelly has launched a website to inform concerned Californians how they can submit enough signatures (505,000 are required) to qualify a referendum for the November 2012 ballot.
AB 131 is currently scheduled to take effect in January 2013. According to Donnelly, more than 300,000 petitions are on the street. Each downloadable petition has room for seven signatures.
As written, the Dream Act would allow thousands of illegal immigrants to access Cal Grants, previously unavailable to them, that will cost stone-broke California about $40 million. This has outraged a growing number of California taxpayers who have already subsidized illegal immigrants K-12 educations. In addition, those same taxpayers have footed the bill for AB 540 that allows aliens to attend California colleges and universities at the significantly lower instate tuition rate — the same fee that citizen children pay. Many California parents who cannot afford to send their own children to college feel that they should not be expected to financially support illegal immigrants' advanced educations.
On the national level, few pieces of legislation have created such wide-spread ire as the Dream Act. Efforts to pass it have failed for more than 10 years under both Republican and Democratic congresses and White Houses.
In California, Governor Jerry Brown's effort to offer more entitlements to illegal aliens comes at a time when the state coffers are empty, the university system is broke and students face overcrowding so extreme that they're lucky if they can enroll in the classes they need to graduate. Cal State recently announced that its Cyber-School, CSU Online, that will offer several classes beginning in January. At Cal, seats are so limited for certain classes that lotteries are held for the few available slots. UC and Cal State fees have gone up year after year, and another $100 million cut to higher education is looming.
Supporters of the California Dream Act say that the state has a responsibility to invest in a university education for all children regardless of their immigration status. And while that argument may sound persuasive, the major problem with it is that even if the alien students graduate, employers cannot legally hire them. Given that fact, millions of dollars invested in illegal immigrants' educations would be wasted since the only employment available to them is in the underground economy.
And the longterm outlook for California jobs is bleak. Scott Anderson, a Wells Fargo Security analyst, said earlier this week that the California labor market is "deeply ill." The most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data published in its latest household survey confirms Anderson's glum analysis. Employment fell in June, July and August.
Assemblyman Donnelly has travelled extensively throughout the state to interact with voters. On a recent trip to Fresno, a steady stream of cars at a drive-thru petition cite generated hundreds of signatures. One local resident and petition signatory said about the Dream Act: "Maybe later on when there's a budget surplus, maybe that can be talked about and brought to fruition. But right now, in this economy, I don't think this is the way to go."
According to Donnelly, the anti-DREAM Act sentiment so prevalent in Fresno is widespread throughout California.
When it comes to illegal immigration and California, I'm reminded of Herb Stein, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Coining what became known as Stein's Law, he famously said: "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop."
Ending the Dream Act would be an important first step in carrying out Stein's Law.
Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 2008. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.