SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- The state Senate on Wednesday approved the second half of contentious legislation that would allow students who are illegal immigrants to apply for state-funded scholarships and financial aid.
The Senate approved AB131, also known as the California Dream Act, with a 22-11 vote, leaving it just one step away from the governor's desk.
The state Assembly must consider changes to the bill it previously passed before it can go to Gov. Jerry Brown.
"These students are valedictorians, they're class presidents, and they're all-star athletes. They are the future of California," said Sen. Charles Calderon, D-Whittier, who carried the bill in the Senate.
The bill is part of a legislative package by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles. Last month, Brown, a Democrat, signed a separate bill by Cedillo approving private scholarships and loans for illegal immigrant students. AB131 would make those students eligible for state-funded financial aid.
Critics say allowing access to those state resources encourages illegal immigration. Supporters counter that the students, many of whom were brought to the United States as young children, shouldn't be punished for their parents' actions.
Sen. Doug La Malfa, R-Willows, opposed the bill Wednesday. He read a letter from a constituent who said his daughter's California education grant was recently cut. He said passing a law such as this would be like rubbing salt in his wound.
Cedillo's legislative package differs from the federal Dream Act, a proposal that would create a path to citizenship for those who are brought to the country illegally as children.
Under the bill approved Wednesday, illegal immigrant students would have to meet the same requirements as others but only would qualify for financial aid that remains after legal residents apply.
"They basically receive the leftovers," Calderon said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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