Last week was a landmark victory for immigration activists in California and for anyone in this country who believes undocumented immigrants deserve a shot at achieving their American DREAM.Governor Jerry Brown has finally signed the DREAM Act into law, granting all bright students in the state of California the right to higher education and access to financial aid, regardless of their immigration status. In an era when post-secondary training is increasingly necessary, and with youth unemployment at unparalleled highs, we applaud the state's decision to invest in the future of our youth by expanding access to college degrees.[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Photo courtesy of Antonio Villaraigosa on Flickr"][/caption]The DREAM Act, AB 131, allows undocumented students in the state of California to apply for Cal-Grants, the state program for financial aid. Last year alone, Cal-Grants provided aid to more than 370,000 low-income students."Going to college is a dream that promises intellectual excitement and creative thinking," Brown said in his statement. "The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us."But the fight doesn't end here. It has now been over ten years since the first federal DREAM Act was introduced in the Senate. It has been perpetually filibustered by conservatives in Congress, most recently in December of 2010. In May of this year, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) reintroduced the act. It remains to be seen whether or not Congress will have the courage to grant high-achieving youth the right to higher education.While state laws granting in-state tuition and financial aid to undocumented students are a huge step in the right direction, they can only do so much. We must continue pressuring federal government to pass a national version of the DREAM Act. Ultimately, only Congress can grant undocumented youth a path to citizenship.For more information on the national DREAM legislation, check out this fact sheet from National Immigration Law Center.
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