SACRAMENTO -- The State Assembly passed a bill granting illegal immigrant students who qualify for in-state tuition at California public universities, the right to apply and receive state scholarships and financial aid.
If Assembly Bill 131 is signed into law, illegal immigrants would only qualify for financial aid that remains after legal residents apply.
Opponents claim giving tax payer-funded scholarships to students who are in the country illegally will encourage more immigrants to come to the state without authorization. Republicans also claim it doesn't make sense to subsidize the education of students who aren't allowed to legally work after they graduate.
The bill's author, Assemblyman Gil Cedillo said it is necessary to grow California's college educated work force.
"If we don't do it, we won't invest and prepare for the future," Assemblyman Cedillo said. "That's our problem that we haven't been investing in the future and that's why we find ourselves in the situation we're in today."
Assemblyman Tim Donnelly disagrees.
"We don't have enough spots, we can't even take care of the educational needs of California citizens and legal residents and I think as much as we might feel sorry for people who've come here illegally, we shouldn't be codifying into law an incentive for millions more people to come here the wrong way," he said.
If AB 131 is signed into law, it won't be implemented until 2013 and it will have a limit on the number of illegal immigrants eligible for financial aid.
The bill now heads to the governor's office who is expected to sign it. It's the second part of the controversial measure known as the California Dream Act.
A companion bill allowing illegal immigrant students to apply for out-of-state aid has already been signed into law by Governor Brown.