And then there were eleven.

California became the eleventh state in the nation to buck the immigrant-blaming wave washing aside common sense and civility in states such as Arizona, Utah, and Georgia.

Instead, California’s Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the first part of the California DREAM Act (AB130), a bill that extends the definition of who qualifies for in-state tuition at public colleges and universities and gives private colleges legal cover should they open some of their non-state funded scholarships to unauthorized immigrant students.

The second part of the California DREAM Act (AB131) would make a limited number of state-funded scholarships available to undocumented students only after the needs of permanent residents and citizens have been met, and if funding remains available.

The bill has yet to reach the Governor’s desk.

In many parts of our great United States, many groaned and rolled their eyes at the news that liberal California had open the gates wide for unauthorized immigrants to come running north and violate all kinds of laws.

What many may not realize is that passage of AB130 does nothing to legitimize undocumented immigration, nor does it ease the path for talented and hard-working students to legalize their immigration status any time soon.

Unlike the federal DREAM Act, state laws focus on tuition equity because these are seen as revenue-positive.

So-called DREAM Acts in New York, Kansas, Nebraska, Utah, Washington, Texas, Wisconsin, Illinois, New Mexico and, most recently, Maryland, do not go as far as to offer state-funded scholarships to undocumented students.

These states have focused on tuition equity due in part to the recognition that state university systems are cash-strapped and need all the revenue they can muster.

The fact that 70 percent of Americans support a federal DREAM Act seems to get lost in the emotional, and often hysterical, reaction of those opposed to legislation that would appear to benefit or support the rights of undocumented immigrants in this country.

In the case of the state DREAM Act, the visceral response is often accompanied by exasperation over our worsening economy.

Immigrants, undocumented or not, are seen as the leeches, the vampires, and the ones who should be punished for Americans to regain their rightful place in society.

We easily forget about the Wall Street barons that scammed us out of our savings, the multi-billion dollar companies that sent jobs overseas to increase their profit, and elected officials who watched as the middle class suffered and did nothing to stop it.

Immigrants become an easy target, although they have suffered the consequences of a dysfunctional financial system just as much as anyone else.

Targeting immigrant students, even if they are undocumented, is the wrong approach.

It is a waste of energy to blame these talented and bright Americans-in-waiting who want only to make their dreams a reality.

Our obstinate denial of educational equity for these students -- and myopic view of the future -- makes us look selfish.

Aside from the fact that the right to an education for all is clearly noted in our constitution and the United Nations charter, Economics 101 dictates that given the rapidly-aging American population, a new generation of working professionals is urgently needed.

Our nation’s future doctors, teachers, bankers, scientists, chemists, caretakers, business owners, real-state agents, and so forth, will need to be sufficiently skilled and prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The professionals of the near future can, and should, include the undocumented immigrant students we are trying to deport, fire, and leave uneducated.

Reliable estimates point to three million children out of a total 12 million undocumented immigrants who were brought by their parents to the United States before the age of 16.

Thousands and thousands of these children grew up as our children’s best buddy, playmate, classmate, and neighbor, and now they are ready to attend college.

These unauthorized immigrants breathe America, love America, and are America.

They happen to share with their parents a social label that damns them because our elected leaders refuse to update our broken immigration laws.

With or without a green card, these students are without a doubt the brightest, most talented, and most committed to do what it takes to reach their American Dream.

The values that make up their struggle are ones this nation has taught them.  And for that we should be proud.

The challenge for America right now is to come to grips with a reality that includes millions of immigrants who live in the shadows -- among us.

The large majority of immigrants serves this nation well and only wants the best for the United States.

Their children, including those who came to this country without the proper papers, are ready to make this nation proud if only we give them the chance our foremothers and forefathers had.

AB130 and AB131 examples of laws that ease the path for an immigrant student wishing to excel and contribute in this country -- the one they call home -- even more.

Jorge-Mario Cabrera is director of communications and public relations for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, or CHIRLA.

Twitter:  @jmcabrerapr


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