By Lorena Gonzalez
In 1996, Congress passed the “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act,” which forbid a state to confer a benefit to an individual who was not here legally, unless the state acted to affirmatively to do so. In other words, Congress told individual states that they had to pass their own laws in order to allow unauthorized immigrants benefits, such as in-state college tuition, state-funded scholarship opportunities and the issuance of licenses of all sorts.
About a decade ago, California started to do just that. It started with AB 540, the landmark legislation where we first started to recognize that it is irrational and counterproductive to penalize young students who were often brought here as small children, who had worked hard, and simply wanted the opportunity to attend our public universities. We began to know these kids as “Dreamers,” brave, dedicated young people who simply wanted to normalize their existence in the only country they had ever known as home.