By Oiyan Poon
Students throughout the University of California with our peers at the California State University and California Community Colleges are frustrated by the Governor’s lack of human compassion represented by his veto of the California DREAM Act (SB 1). Although this is a setback in the statewide efforts to ensure the California DREAM for all Californians, the UC Student Association will continue to fight for access and affordability of the UC system for all UC students.
In the past couple months UCSA students have worked with Senator Cedillo and Speaker Nunez on bringing SB 1 to the Governor’s desk. We have worked with community organizations throughout the state to register voters, organize rallies, fax blasts, letter writing campaigns, and call-in days to ask the Governor to affirm the California DREAM.
We did this work because we know that many undocumented students immigrated to California as very young children, and for reasons out of their own control they are currently undocumented residents of California. While the federal government continues its struggles to implement fair and just immigration reform, undocumented immigrant scholar youth - some of the best students in California and throughout the U.S. are being unfairly denied the support they deserve.
In the Governor’s veto message he noted rising fees in the UC and Cal State systems saying ‘It would not be prudent to place additional strain on the General Fund’ for undocumented students. As the voice of students, UCSA can speak with authority on the issue of skyrocketing fees. We too believe that fees are another barrier to the access and affordability of higher education in California. But we know that the issues of fees and financial aid for undocumented students must be addressed dually. This mindset is confirmed among the other supporters of this bill including the California State and community college student associations, UC Regents and the California Faculty Association, all who are very familiar with the challenges of decreased state support for California public higher education.
The United States has always been a nation that espouses reward for hard work and achievement. AB 540 students in our colleges and universities have overcome countless obstacles and adversities, and many still consistently earn stellar grades and contribute significantly to our California communities. By vetoing the California DREAM Act, the Governor sent a message to these students that directly contradicts the American values of hard work, achievement, and reward.
As a child of immigrants and as a student leader, I view the veto of the California DREAM as a message from the Governor that hard work and talent do not count for much in California.
Although the vetoing of SB 1 is a grave end to this legislative session, we hope that Governor Schwarzenegger will sign the California DREAM Act into law next year, during his self-proclaimed year of Education. As students, we are proud of our hard work to pass the California DREAM Act out of the state legislature. We will now turn our energy and resources toward working with the UC Regents, who recently adopted a comprehensive Diversity Statement, to implement UC policy to make AB 540 students eligible for University-based financial aid. We will also be back with more fervor to halt fee increases and pass the California DREAM Act next year.
Oiyan Poon is the President of the University of California Student Association (UCSA) and a graduate student at UCLA, The UCSA is the official voice of over 200,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students from the ten UC campuses. Its mission is to advocate on behalf of current and future students for the accessibility, affordability, and quality of the University of California system.