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The California DREAM Act

January 16, 2011

Will California Take The Lead On Immigration Reform?

If Arizona can take certain aspects of immigration law into its own hands, why can’t California do the same?

“What’s good for the goose,” my mother used to say, “is good for the gander.”

Arizona And The Anti-Immigrant Movement

For almost a year, Arizona has been leading the way for anti-immigration forces.  From the passage of SB 1070 to efforts to restrict birthright citizenship, Arizona politicians have asserted they can step in when the federal government fails to act.

The federal government and most immigration reform supporters disagree.  In their view, only federal authorities have the power to expand or restrict immigration laws.  To allow states to interfere with this process is to invite a crazy quilt of disjointed immigration rules and regulations.

Arizona immigration opponents scoff at this notion.  States, they assert, can and should be able to create their own laws even if they impinge on national concerns. 

What if they had their way? 

Well, California could move in its own direction. 

The Jerry Brown Factor

In the recent round of national elections, California withstood the negative onslaught on immigrants.  Jerry Brown won the Governor’s race.  He defeated a candidate opposed to reform which include legalization paths for undocumented immigrants.  

Not only is California’s political view different than most other states.  Jerry Brown is a different type of political leader.  That he ran for the Governor’s seat nearly three decades after his political career was seemingly over illustrates his independent streak. 

He is often criticized for his willingness to handle press conferences without a canned speech.  He scared his supporters by not following a rehearsed plan of action in his recent campaign.  But his independence has been his trademark for years.

If he stays true to form, it is likely California may jump to the front of the immigration debate by supporting pro reform programs. 

The California DREAM Act

I’m not the only person thinking this way. 

As Julianne Hing, writing for ColorLines, recently noted, “The DREAM Act is back, in California at least.”

Hing explains that despite three vetoes former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assemblyman Gil Cedillo introduced a new version earlier this week, just a few days after Brown took office.  If passed, undocumented youth would be allowed to apply for financial aid and grants at California universities and colleges.    

During his campaign last fall, Brown publicly declared his support, saying “Yes to the California DREAM Act” during one of the governor debates.

Even though California will not be able to set forth a path to green cards, permanent residence, and legalization, enabling talented immigrant youth to become more fully integrated in our society is a critical step forward. 

This legislation would build on the recent California Supreme Court victory for immigrant students regarding college tuition rates at California colleges. 

It’s true, however, politicians often say one thing to get into office, then change their views once they’re elected.  As a result, until the new law is passed, signed, and enacted, many immigrant supporters will remain skeptical.  

Why Governor Brown Will Support The DREAM Act

Shortly after law school, I joined the campaign staff for Jerry Brown.  His independent streak matched my quest for carving my own unique professional path. 

He was one of the few politicians willing to consider forward-looking solutions to social and economic problems.  He was open to discussion and debate. 

On more than one issue, I recall vibrant debate as we asserted why the other’s position was misplaced.  I’ve never met another politician who could check his or her ego at the door when discussing issues with an assistant. 

These discussions showed me that he was an open-minded thinker unafraid of speaking his mind.  I was, of course, disappointed when his career seemed over. 

I am elated by his comeback. 

As an immigration reform advocate and Riverside immigration lawyer, I feel strongly he will assume a leadership role on immigration issues.

If Jerry’s essential views have not changed, I’m highly optimistic about the possibilities his new term holds for constructive political changes on a wide variety of issues.   

And if he does that, political leaders throughout the nation will have two clear choices: imitate Arizona or follow California.

Given such a showdown, my bet is on California.

By , Immigration Law, Policy, And Politics

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