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Students await Brown's decision on Dream Act

Tonatiuh Garcia, an illegal immigrant since he was nine months old, is not waiting for Gov. Jerry Brown to approve legislation the would make the 21-year-old college student and others like him eligible for state-funded financial aid.

Garcia, a Santa Rosa Junior College graduate now attending Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, is paying for his own education — about $2,600 a quarter for tuition; $500 a quarter for books and $700 a month for a small studio apartment.

But legislation known as the California Dream Act would lessen Garcia's financial burden.

AB 131, which is headed for Brown's desk after recent approval by the Legislature, would make state financial aid available to illegal immigrants studying at the University of California, California State University and California Community College systems.

Under the bill, Cal Grants and institutional grants such as university grants and scholarships, work-study and loan programs would be available. At the community college level, the bill would also allow qualifying illegal immigrants to receive a fee waiver.

AB 131 is actually the second part of the Dream Act. On July 25, Brown signed the first part, AB 130, which made illegal immigrants eligible to receive private scholarships.

Supporters say the Dream Act, which would cost an estimated $40 million, about 1 percent of the state's $3.5 billion budget, is an investment in the future of California.

Luis Dario Qui?nez, a legislative aide to Assemblymember Gilbert Cedillo, the author of the bill, said the state is expected to be short 1 million college educated workers by 2025.

"This is an opportunity for us to help fill that void with these undocumented students," Qui?nez said in an e-mail response to questions.

Further, the bill specifically provides that the number of awards received by California residents through campus-administered programs not be diminished as a result of expanding access to illegal immigrants.

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