Campus Supports AB540

Mark Laluan

Students rally in Oakland for undocumented immigrants to have access to higher education, not just Californians. CSU East Bay’s student government wants to open up a dialogue about the topic.

Last Thursday, CSU East Bay’s Associated Students (ASI) passed a resolution in support of AB540 students.

The text of the ASI resolution supports the creation of a “an intellectual discussion regarding the difficult experience of AB540 students and others so they may step out of the shadows and celebrate their identity as well as protected status, encouraging those who are eligible to register as soon as possible without fear of retribution to access the benefit of paying in-state tuition.”

The text of the resolution further goes on to state, “ASI and its constituents support any future legislation that includes but is not limited to increased access to financial aid, inclusion to ‘historically disadvantaged minority’ classifications, and eventual avenues toward earned legalization.”

While the resolution by the ASI does not indicate the immediate creation of new programs backed by new policies to aid AB540 students, the resolution indicates that the ASI taken the position to publicly align itself with the political forces in California that support AB540.

AB540 was passed by California’s government in 2001, under the tenure of then-Democratic Governor Gray Davis. The bill allows illegal immigrants who meet certain requirements to pay in-state tuition while attending public institutions of higher learning in California.

The University of California, California State University and community college systems are directed to grant in-state tuition to undocumented students who meet the following requirements.

Students must have attended high school for three academic years, from grades 9-12 (does not have to be consecutive); have received a GED or an equivalent, such as completing the High School Proficiency Exam; registered or be currently enrolled in an accredited institution of higher education, and must file an affidavit with the school saying that they will apply for legal residency as soon as possible.

Recently, the California Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to the legality of AB540, where the plaintiffs, being out-of-state students, demanded the same privileges accorded to illegal immigrants that AB540 granted.

Currently, federal law prevents illegal immigrants from receiving education benefits at institutions of higher learning. However, the California Supreme Court held that AB540 benefits are not linked to residency and technically not regulated by Federal law.

When asked why AS has jumped into the fray, Vice President of External Affairs Joe Tafoya said, “[the] impetus for this resolution comes from within the organization [AS] and our perception of the politics outside of campus. [We] are committed to protecting the quality and accessibility of a public higher education at this university. This resolution is a bold move to promote the conditions that help AB540 students at CSU East Bay.”

Tafoya then went on to describe that discussion regarding remedies for AB540 students has started. He indicates that AS is probing that possibility of offering new scholarships for AB540 students.

Tafoya went on to say, “this resolution is intended to be a cue for other CSU campuses throughout the system. I hope that our bold move starts a snowball effect so student leadership from other campuses jump on the bandwagon as a precursor to a collective push on the DREAM Act.”

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, commonly called the DREAM Act, is a piece of pending federal legislation that would make education a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Tafoya indicates that student advocacy for AB540 is part of a larger push to build momentum in support of more comprehensive legislation such as the DREAM Act.

“Results from the past General Election encourage us to push our Federal Legislators as much as possible to reintroduce the DREAM Act before Democrats lose their majority in the House of Representatives in late January,” said Tafoya.

Democrats by and large have shown themselves supportive of such legislation, with the major exception of former President George W. Bush’s Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007. Introduced into the Senate, the bill was the culmination of President Bush’s 2004 election promise to reform the immigration and naturalization system.

The bill would have expanded border protection agencies while at the same time created a new guest worker program and streamline permanent residency programs.

While moderate Democrats and Republicans backed the bill, a group of anti-Bush administration Republicans and nearly the entire liberal faction of the Democratic delegation to the Senate torpedoed the bill.

The politicization of the immigration reform process and the unwillingness of Democrats and Republicans at the federal level to give credit the other side of the aisle have effectively killed all immigration reform attempts since the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, pushed through under the administration of former President Ronald Reagan.

With Republican majorities returning to the House of Representatives and the Democrats lacking a supermajority in the Senate, beltway insiders have given the chances of the DREAM Act passing during the lame duck session of this current Democratic controlled Congress as being slim to none.

Such odds do not daunt such student leaders such as Tafoya.

“System wide, East Bay is leading the charge for action on this issue. Not only do we owe it to our students, but to others throughout California who are victims of an immigration status they had no role in determining,” he said.