California Governor Jerry Brown [official website] signed [press release] the California Dream Act [AB 131, PDF] into law on Saturday, expanding financial aid to undocumented students. Under AB 131, high achieving students who are in the process of applying for citizenship are eligible to receive financial aid for college. The newly enacted law builds on AB 130, signed into law by Governor Brown on July 25, 2011, which made financial aid from private sources available to the same group of students. The former law required undocumented students to pay nonresident tuition at California Community Colleges and the California State University unless they were nonimmigrant aliens who attended high school in California for at least three years and graduated from a California high school or its equivalent. The former law also covered aliens without lawful immigration status if they filed a prescribed affidavit. The Dream Act amends the Donahue Higher Education Act to establish procedures that enable students who are exempt from paying nonresident tuition to apply for, and participate in, all student aid programs to the full extent that federal law permits.
Immigration has been a divisive issue across the US. In August, President Barack Obama announced major reforms [JURIST report] to the US's current immigration system, putting 300,000 illegal immigrants' cases up for review and temporarily halting their deportation. Many of the criteria allowing immigrants to stay in this country mirror portions of the federal Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act [materials], which has languished in Congress for a decade. It attempts to provide amnesty for illegal immigrants who serve in the military or achieve a college education. Also in August, the Casa de Maryland immigrant rights group filed a challenge [JURIST report] to a public referendum over a Maryland law providing in-state tuition to undocumented college students. The group filed the challenge in the Maryland Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County [official website] after opponents of the Maryland DREAM Act [text, PDF; materials] collected enough signatures to put the law to a public referendum.