Every year, about 25,000 students graduate from California high schools and enter a sort of limbo.
Though they've been raised and schooled here, they find out at some point that they were brought here – through no choice of their own – by parents who arrived as unlawful immigrants.
The examples are legion. Remember Arthur Mkoyan? He arrived in Fresno as a 2-year-old from Armenia, graduated from high school as valedictorian and was accepted to the University of California, Davis. But his parents had overstayed their visas, so he faced deportation to Armenia, a country he didn't know and whose language he hardly spoke.
At a press conference on the Capitol steps in 2002, Rodrigo, who didn't give his last name and was a sophomore at University of California, Berkeley, joined others by telling his story publicly. He had been brought to the United States by his mother when he was 6 years old, graduated with a 4.0 grade-point average from a San Jose high school and was accepted to UC Berkeley.
California and nine other states have addressed this problem directly – and the California Supreme Court issued an important 7-0 decision this week upholding their approach. Courts in other states should take notice.
Congress should follow California's lead and resolve the problem nationally by approving the federal version of the DREAM Act. California's AB 540 of 2001, whose authors were Democrat Marco Firebaugh and Republican Abel Maldonado, passed overwhelmingly in the Assembly, 57-15, and Senate, 27-7.
This law allows students to pay in-state tuition in the public university system if they have attended a California high school for three years and have graduated. That means students like Arthur and Rodrigo are exempt from more expensive nonresident tuition. They are not eligible for financial aid, however; they must pay their own way.
To read the complete editorial, visit www.sacbee.com.