California Assemblyman Tim Donnelly's signature gathering effort to put the DREAM Act, A.B. 131, on the November 2012 ballot is entering its final days. Undecided citizens could learn valuable lessons from Rhode Island.
In September, Rhode Island became the thirteenth state to allow illegal immigrants to pay lower in-state tuition rates. The measure is scheduled to take effect during the autumn 2012 semester. During weeks of testimony before the Rhode Island Board of Education, supporters insisted that the advanced education that the illegal immigrants would receive will help them get high paying jobs.
But during the same testimony, several students inadvertently exposed the folly behind state-based DREAM Acts. College students told of the multiple and insurmountable obstacles they face in getting a job since hiring aliens is illegal. Like A.B. 131, the Rhode Island law does not provide students with United States citizenship which is a federal government function.
One student told the board that he knew of magna cum laude graduates who worked at restaurants for minimum wage. Another called the Rhode Island bill a "dead end."
That's exactly the point. If the Rhode Island DREAM Act, as well the similar California, Texas, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin laws don't provide a path to citizenship, they also don't lead to jobs.
The California DREAM Act is flawed in numerous ways. Not only will illegal immigrant students be able to apply for taxpayer funded financial aid at California's public colleges and universities, they will also be eligible to receive Cal Grants which pay up to several thousand dollars annually per student.
Then, there's the cost beleaguered and broke Californians will have to incur. When Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill in October, he projected that the DREAM Act's cost would not exceed $10 million annually. But a December report released by the non-partisan California Legislative Analyst's Office put the annual sum at $65 million, more than six times Brown's original projection.
Broken down, the LAO reported that the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) will incur estimated "up-front costs of about $700,000 and ongoing annual costs of about $250,000 to administer the DREAM Act." The California Community Colleges (CCC) Chancellor's office says its cost of administering the program will be near $15 million. And the CSAC estimates that the Cal Grant entitlement program will incur annual additional costs of approximately $13 million in the first year and will total around $50 million by 2016-17.
In summary, A.B. 131 would not lead to jobs but instead does raise taxpayer costs and puts citizen children at risk. Each incoming freshman class has a fixed number of seats. When illegal immigrants compete for them, fewer citizens will be accepted.
If Assemblyman Donnelly's effort fails, the DREAM Act would go into effect in 2013 and would represent another roadblock for American youth trying to carve out productive lives.
Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 2008. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.