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California's Dream Act: What are the implications for the Bay Area and beyond?

Host: Yumi Wilson

Producer: Yumi Wilson 

At a time when dozens of states are passing anti-immigrant laws, Gov. Jerry Brown has just signed a series of bills that sends a clear signal that California isn't about to punish them.

On Saturday, he signed a bill that will allow thousands of undocumented students in California to receive state financial aid to attend public colleges. AB131, which still faces approval by UC Regents, is set to take effect in 2013.

Brown also signed a bill that bans local government from passing laws requiring local businesses use a federal online database used to check workers' status, and a bill that blocks police from impounding vehicles at a checkpoint because a driver is unlicensed.

Supporters say Brown's actions are important acts in the absence of any Congressional leadership. The Obama administration recently said it would prioritize who it deports to focus on immigrants convicted of serious crimes.

While that is a first and important step it doesn't replace a federal Dream Act or prevent rogue enforcement efforts. And the Obama administration has yet to shut down the controversial Secure Communities program that has netted thousands of immigrants with no criminal history. The program was created to target immigrants convicted of violent felonies but has led to the deportation of immigrants with no or minor convictions.

What do voters think about the governor's historic actions? Will the cost for taxpayers be too much to bear? Will California's new laws sway the Obama administration into action?


  • Sandra Hernandez is an editorial writer at the Los Angeles Times. She has worked as a staff writer at the L.A. Daily Journal, covering criminal justice and immigration, and as a staff writer at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, where she covered Latino affairs as well Latin America and the Caribbean. She worked as a freelance correspondent in Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil -- writing for the Times, among other places -- and was a staff writer at the L.A. Weekly for six years before that.
  • Peter Orner is an associate professor in creative writing at San Francisco State University. He is the author of a novel, The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo, and a story collection, Esther Stories. A new novel, Love and Shame and Love, will be out next month. Peter is also the editor of Underground America and Hope Deferred: Narratives of Zimbabwean Lives. Peter was born in Chicago and is a graduate of the University of Michigan. He received a law degree from Northeastern University and an MFA from the University of Iowa. 
  •  Doug Ford is an immigration attorney at the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the director of the Immigration Law Clinic at the Law School. He is coordinator of the Legal Aid Pro Bono Immigration Project, a partnership with the law firm Hunton & Williams and the Law School’s Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center. Ford has previously worked as a policy analyst for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants in Washington, D.C. He has also worked as a senior research associate and deputy director of Bosnia Projects with Physicians for Human Rights.