SACRAMENTO — The attempt to block a California law that allows public financial aid for college students who are in the country illegally has failed to collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, the leading proponent said Friday.
Opponents fell short by about 57,000 signatures, said state Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, who led the repeal effort. They needed more than 500,000 registered voter signatures to try to overturn the law.
When the law takes effect next year, it will allow illegal immigrants to apply for state-funded college scholarships and aid at public universities. A second portion of what is known as the California Dream Act took effect this year and allows private scholarships and loans for students who are illegal immigrants.
"This is disappointing news, but it is no less of a warning to Governor (Jerry) Brown and every Democrat legislator who voted to create a new entitlement program for illegals while the state still has a budget deficit over $9 billion, and cannot even meet its obligation to legal California students," Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, said in a statement.
California already allows illegal immigrant students to pay in-state college tuition if they graduate from a California high school and can prove they are on the path to legalize their immigration status. They cannot, however, apply for public or private financial aid.
Proponents said the two-part Dream Act shows California is more progressive than other states that are trying to punish illegal immigrants. The bills are different from the proposed federal Dream Act, which would include a path to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants.
"The lesson is clear. California is a state that leads our nation forward, not backward," said Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, who authored both parts of the California law. "We are a state that prides itself on reconciling our differences rather than exacerbating them."
He said the allowing illegal immigrant college students access to financial aid would help the state provide employers with an educated work force.