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Students benefit from California Dream Act

Nick Valenzuela

Michelle Perez, 19, fills out a California Dream act form online at the workshop on Feb. 8.

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Undocumented immigrants are eligible for equal financial aid assistance as of Jan. 1.

The California Dream Act is the result of two bills, Assembly Bills 130 and 131. Together these bills allow undocumented and documented students, who meet certain provisions, to apply for and receive financial aid assistance, according to the California Student Aid Commission’s website.

“It allows undocumented students to receive the same financial aid those students born here get,” said Stephanie Zuniga, a 22-year-old Cosumnes River College student staff member in the Financial Aid department.

Zuniga is one of the staffers who helped students at a workshop fill out paperwork regarding the Cal Dream Act and other financial aid forms on Feb. 8. The Cal Dream Act application process allows students to identify themselves as undocumented students.

“Students self-identify through the California Student Aid Commission,” said Kristie West, CRC’s public information officer. “This tells them how they qualify for financial aid. Our financial aid office is then able to download their file.”

These files are strictly confidential, and there are no checks and matches between the Cal Dream application and any federal databases, according to CSAC.

“As of January, which was when students could identify as Dream Act students, we have downloaded 107 students at CRC,” West said.

A student attending the workshop expressed her reservations about applying for the Cal Dream Act.

“I wasn’t sure about it. I didn’t want to give my parent’s information, so at first it was really difficult,” said Michelle Perez, a 19-year-old medical assistant major. “It means a lot to me because without it I wasn’t able to go to school, and now it will make my career easier on me and open a lot of doors.”

Fellow Dream Act student Deirel Marquez-Perez, an 18-year-old peace and conflict studies major, has similar thoughts on the legislation, but did not have reservations about the information being asked.

“Personally I didn’t, but I understand why Dreamers would. I have a lot of friends who grow up to be more cautious,” said Marquez-Perez. “I feel it has taken away a barrier that has been in place. The Dream Act means more opportunities to accomplish my dream.”

Opponents of the Cal Dream Act argue that it will only add to the growing strain on class size and increase in competition during enrollment.

However, Spanish professor Gabriel Torres urges that we must make “a welcoming campus for dreamers” in order for them to feel safe and move forward.

“Don’t be ashamed of who you are,” said Marquez-Perez. “I still have a lot of friends who don’t want to share their stories, but I think you can change a person’s perspective on immigration if you do.”

The Cal Dream Act has become part of a national movement geared towards changing that perspective, and President Obama gave a speech regarding a “common sense, comprehensive immigration reform,” on Jan. 29, which would allow undocumented immigrants a clearer way to citizenship.

According to the Huffington post, Obama mentions giving priority to undocumented immigrants who serve in the military or pursue higher education.

Opportunities for young and undocumented immigrants are becoming increasingly available, whether through the Cal Dream act or a national reform, yet some students are still hesitant.

“Go for it,” said Perez, addressing fellow Dream Act students. “They won’t regret it.”

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Students benefit from California Dream Act