(Courtesy of The New York Times)
California is on the brink of making a wise investment in its future and delivering a powerful rebuke to poisoned immigration politics at the national level. This week, the Legislature is expected to pass the California Dream Act, a bill to allow undocumented immigrants to receive state-financed college scholarships and loans. Earlier this summer, the state gave such students access to privately financed aid. The new bill should open even more doors to college degrees for young Californians, and Gov. Jerry Brown should quickly sign it.
Making it easier for the undocumented to afford college does not give anyone citizenship or a green card. Only the federal government can do that — for instance, through the federal Dream Act, which has long been stalled in Congress and would give undocumented young people a path to legalization. But passing the California Dream Act would be inspiring, not just for the opportunities it would grant thousands of deserving students, but also for the message it would send.
The response to unauthorized immigration today, at the federal level and in far too many states, conflates all illegal presence with criminality, and seeks to choke off all opportunity for the undocumented regardless of circumstance. California seems ready to say otherwise — that it makes no sense to punish young people who bear no responsibility for their unlawful status, to stifle their education and ambition at the cusp of adulthood. Having grown up in this country, these are Americans in all but name.
The California bill is expected to cost $40 million, about 1 percent of the $3.5 billion that California spends on state college aid. A leader of an anti-immigration organization told a Times reporter that the measure was “a really stupid allocation of limited resources.”
He had it ludicrously backward. Hopeful, striving, well-educated people are a resource any country needs. Consigning tens of thousands of bright minds to an illegal existence and dead-end jobs, spending millions to purge work forces and to arrest, imprison and deport people who are contributing to the economy — that’s the flagrant waste that too many Republicans are willing to perpetuate.