California Dream Act Kicks In: 20,000 Aliens Line Up for Taxpayer Subsidized Tuition

Published on March 9th, 2013

Before October 2011 when Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Dream Act, CAPS launched a vigorous campaign to warn citizens of the legislation’s cost and consequences. Through FAXes, website blogs and columns, CAPS alerted Californians that the Dream Act would add to the state’s multi-billion dollar debt burden and would also, since there are a fixed number of freshman seats, displace deserving citizen children.  California’s college tuitions increase every year, the state university system has suffered more than $1 billion in aggregate cost cutting measures and overcrowded classrooms force students into lotteries to get the courses they need to graduate. Nevertheless, Brown was undeterred.

Brown assured Californians that the cost would be small, about $13 million according to his original estimate. The California Legislative Analyst’s Office, however, recently put the total at $65 million during the first three years alone. That’s $65 million California doesn’t have.

Now the California Dream Act has shifted into high gear. As many as 20,000 alien students have applied for state aide including Cal Grants formerly reserved for citizens only.  During 2013, according to the California Student Aid Commission, 6,000 aliens will receive Cal Grants worth nearly $20 million. Individual campuses have stepped up their outreach. The University of California, Berkeley established an Undocumented Student Program located at the Dreamers Resource Center to “provide guidance and support for undocumented students at Cal.”  

The Dream Act’s financial burden will fall directly on the working middle class. Because California's wealthy face 51.9 percent federal-state combined income tax on earnings over $1 million, a result of new taxes imposed by Congress and Sacramento, many of the rich anticipate moving out of state. California’s 13.3 percent top tier income tax is the nation’s highest. [Two-Tax Rise Tests California’s Wealthy, by Adam Nagourney, New York Times, February 6, 2013]

California’s largess to alien students has two possible outcomes, both bad. First, upon graduation, some of the students may still not be legal citizens and will not be, because of their immigration status, employable. As non-earners, they’ll be unable to generate enough tax revenue to make even a slight dent in what it cost to subsidize their educations.  Second, those who do become permanent legal residents will compete for jobs with unemployed and underemployed Americans.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics set California’s the average 2012 U-6 unemployment rate at 19.5 percent.

California first collected state income tax in 1929. Since then, my two sets of grandparents, my parents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and siblings have paid into the California university system which started as a land grant college in 1866. The Dream Act insults native Californians like me and puts future generations of citizen children at risk.

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