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California Dream Act one step closer to reality

August 25, 2011 | 12:52 pm

Gil Cedillo

A key state Senate committee approved Thursday a hotly debated bill to give college students who are illegal immigrants access to public financial aid in what supporters see as their best hope for success since the battle began five years ago.

AB 131, part of a two-bill package known as the California Dream Act, would allow undocumented students who qualify for reduced in-state tuition to apply for an estimated $38 million in Cal Grants, community college fee waivers and other public financial aid.

Versions of the bill have been approved since 2006 but were vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; Gov. Jerry Brown, who last month signed a companion bill allowing undocumented students to apply for $88 million in private aid, has said he would have signed the bills that Schwarzenegger vetoed last year.

Many undocumented students say the aid will be a godsend, allowing them to pursue their dreams of a college education. But foes call the bill a giveaway to illegal immigrants at a time of deep financial stress.

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-- Teresa Watanabe

Photo: California Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), a supporter of the California Dream Act, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library at Los Angeles City College on July 25, where the first part of the two-bill package was signed into law. Credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press

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