By Rosie Godinez / Staff Writer
By Rosie Godinez / Staff Writer
On March 15 voices for the undocumented population gathered around the steps of Riverside City College’s Martin Luther King building in an effort to educate faculty and students about the AB540 measure and its appeal to the student population and communities of California.
Students, faculty and staff have seen the phrase AB540 written across numerous posters throughout campus and up pops the question, “What is AB540 and what does it mean?”
In 2001, California Legislature passed the Assembly Bill 540, which allows immigrant students who have lived in state for three or more years to qualify for instate tuition.
AB540 represents a considerable slash to the cost of tuition for undocumented students who pursue higher education.
In 2009/10 total average annual cost instates fees for an undergraduate full-time student at University of California was $9,285.
For non-resident students a grand total of $32,002 for total tuition fees at the same university.
At California State Universities undergraduate resident students pay $4,026 annually and non-resident students $11,160.
For California community colleges the annual fee for a resident is $480, versus $3,360 for non-resident students.
AB540 does not change a student’s immigration status and it does not provide access to federal or state financial aid.
This measure contributes to the approval of the California D.R.E.A.M. Act and for the pursuit of higher education.
This is also a matter of whether California laws on immigration should be enforced, and if education for undocumented students should be allowed or disapproved for legalities and rights of American citizens.
Supporters and Pro-AB540 students grabbed a microphone and began depicting what AB540 does for their dreams and what their purpose and motives are for the future of the undocumented population’s pursuit of higher education.
“You can do anything you set your mind to announced my teacher to my third grade classroom. In this country you have the liberty and even the possibility to become president of the United States,” said RCC student Koatzin.
“They said you’re not going to end up no where, you can’t get financial aid, you can’t do this you can’t do that,” Koatzin said. “There are people that share these similarities and I am here along with these other students to prove them wrong.”
Italia Garcia, student body president for AB540 club is in support of the California Dream Act.
“We want to make sure we create an open forum and open community to all the students who are undocumented and let them know we are unafraid,” said Garcia.
Activists opposed to AB540 are concerned with U.S. citizens being cheated by having to subsidize education of undocumented students that are breaking the law by being here.
“The main question everybody is asking ‘why are you here?’ We are not here to take over, to take up space or live off the government,” said Brandon Guzman, a UCLA graduating senior.
“We are here to live out our dreams and enrich society. Go out there and fight the fight,” Guzman said.
The California Dream Act would allow U.S. Citizens and undocumented AB540 students to apply for financial aid administered by campus at the California State, University of California and Community Colleges. The D.R.E.A.M. Act would also allow qualified AB540 students to apply for the Board of Governor’s (B.O.G) fee waiver.
Adrian Landa took the Microphone at the forum.
“I don’t think I can speak to the experience we go through, we live in the shadows, and that’s not an exaggeration because we have to constantly be worried about possibly being deported,” said Landa.
Opposed activists argue that amnesty should not be given to undocumented aliens and allow them to take financial aid when they are illegally here, when classes are already being cut and disbursement for student grants and funding is under consideration for being drastically reduced, in regards to Pell Grant.
“The Pell Grant Program, widely considered to be the backbone of financial aid to the country’s most needy students, was subject to a decrease in funding as part of a Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1), which cleared the House last month and cut about $60 billion from the federal budget. Lawmakers levied a $5.7 billion cut to the Pell Grant Program.” http://www.usnews.com/education.
The Dream Act was re-introduced but failed to advance to the Senate floor and was blocked on December 18, 2010.