Scholarships and Illegal Immigrants

Article excerpt

When it comes to how California handles illegal immigrants, the state is all over the map. Not unlike the rest of the country, the Golden State can't decide whether it wants to make life comfortable for the undocumented or make them so unhappy that it runs them off.

'Twas always thus. Consider my home state's history over the past few decades.

In the 1980s, Republican Sen. Pete Wilson of California drove support for the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which President Ronald Reagan signed into law in 1986. The legislation granted amnesty to about 3 million illegal immigrants.

Then in the 1990s, when Wilson -- who had come home to serve as governor -- found himself with dismal approval ratings and a tough re-election battle, he drove support for Proposition 187, which California voters approved in 1994. The ballot initiative -- later struck down as unconstitutional -- denied illegal immigrants and their U.S.-born children access to schools, welfare and nonemergency health care.

Now, in a recent development, the flagship institution in the University of California system -- UC Berkeley -- has announced that it is forming a $1 million scholarship fund for undocumented immigrant students. Believed to be the largest scholarship of its kind at any university in the country, it is being funded by a donation from a private foundation. When the Dreamers Fund is established in 2013, as many as 200 undocumented students from 20 countries will be eligible to apply. The awards are in the amount of $8,000. To qualify, students need at least a 3.0 grade-point average.

The scholarship takes its name from the DREAM Act, legislation that would have provided a pathway to legal status and citizenship to those who attended college or joined the military. …