There's no doubt immigration reform has a long way to go to ensure family reunification and a path to citizenship for the undocumented community. We must continue to fight for a federal DREAM Act and demand an end to Secure Communities and 287(g) programs that allow state and local law enforcement agencies to partner with ICE. I remain hopeful because California had major victories last year that prove just how powerful uniting with dignity as our moral compass can be.
Here are five immigrant rights bills California Governor Jerry Brown signed during his first year in office and what you need to know about them:
1. California DREAM Act (AB 130 & AB 131): Together, the bills are known as the California DREAM Act. They allow all students who qualify for nonresident tuition under AB 540, including the undocumented, to be eligible to participate in all state-administered financial aid programs and all institutional financial aid at the University of California, California State University, and California Community Colleges. Visit the California Student Aid Commission regularly and write down these important dates below:
o January 1, 2012: Private scholarships become available at public colleges and universities through AB 130. Check with your college's financial aid office ASAP about application information.
o January 1, 2013: Institutional grants and community college fee waivers become available through AB 131. University grant application priority deadlines are in early 2012. See your college's financial aid office ASAP for application information.
o January 1 - March 2, 2013: Cal Grant Dream applications will be available for Dream Act Cal Grants for the 2013-14 academic year.
2. AB 207: This bill ensures all students have access to K-12 schools even if their parents are victims of domestic violence, immigrants, low-wage workers, or homeless and have difficulty providing residential information. Parents can provide property tax receipts, rental contracts or payment receipts, salary payments, and voter registration as proof of residency.
3. AB 353: This bill prevents law enforcement from impounding vehicles at DUI checkpoints if the driver's only offense is a lack of a valid driver's license.
4. AB 844: This bill allows all students, including AB 540 students, to run for student government at the California State University, the University of California, and the California Community Colleges. Students are also eligible for grants, scholarships, fee waivers or reimbursements for expenses incurred in student government.
5. AB 1236: This prevents cities and counties from mandating the use of the federal E-Verify programs, which according to government data, only correctly detects unauthorized workers about 50% of the time and false positives abound.
Pablo Rodríguez is the Executive Director of Communities for a New California (CNC), a statewide civil rights advocacy organization. Pablo is committed to achieving public policy that is socially, economically, and environmentally just for California's families.