Dream Act divides state's voters
What's your stance on the Dream Act? Vote on our homepage.
LOS ANGELES — Many Californians worry that they are being priced out of the state's public university systems, and they object to allowing illegal immigrants the same financial aid that U.S. citizens can receive at the campuses, a new poll has found.
Fifty-five percent of the voters questioned said they oppose a new state law known as the California Dream Act. It will permit undocumented students who graduated from California high schools and meet other requirements to receive taxpayer aid to attend the University of California, California State and community colleges starting in 2013. Forty percent support it.
But there is a huge ethnic divide on the issue, according to the University of Southern California Dornsife/Los Angeles Times survey: 79 percent of Latinos approve of the law, while only 30 percent of whites do.
"There are not a lot of other issues on which there are such huge differences," said Manuel Pastor, a USC professor of American studies and ethnicity.
Partly, he said, it's easier for many Latinos, because they may know more undocumented people, to "understand the potential of someone who lacks papers but can really contribute to America."
But there are pocketbook factors too, especially in rough economic times, said Pastor, director of USC's Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration. The poll shows that more Latinos than whites feel they may be unable to afford a university education; they may be more likely to support aid for all needy students, he said.
The bipartisan survey found that a narrow majority of registered Democrats, 53 percent, support the new policy, which was signed into law last month by a fellow Democrat, Gov. Jerry Brown. But only 23 percent of Republicans do.
"I don't think illegal aliens should have any benefits in this country," said respondent Lois Hartman, 64, a Republican who is a retired database supervisor from Downey. As for arguments that many students were brought to the U.S. as babies and had no choice about where they were raised, she said, "Their parents should have thought about that. I don't have any sympathy for them."
On the other hand, Andrew Haesloop, 25, a Democrat from San Carlos, supports the Dream Act. Its costs ultimately will be offset, he reasoned, by the higher taxes paid by students who land better jobs because they had the opportunity for a college education.
"It's a benefit that could encourage these people to become contributing members of society," said Haesloop, an admissions counselor at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont.
A decade of tuition increases, including two this year at the 10 U.C. and 23 Cal State campuses, has taken a toll. The poll found that 49 percent of voters consider the universities not very affordable or not at all affordable, compared with 41 percent who say they are very or somewhat affordable.