DREAM Act Camouflages Divisive Nightmare

Some regard higher education as a privilege for citizens only.

022609 Top News Croatian Soldier

Anyone who thinks California is a bastion of tolerance better think again.

A recent poll on the popularity of the DREAM Act conducted by USC and the Los Angeles Times reveals the underside of the state's diverse population.

The DREAM Act stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Undocumented Minors.

Part of the act allows undocumented immigrant students who graduate California schools to attend state public universities and qualify for financial aid. For immigrants who come from poor families, the ability is obtain a university education is critical to economic success.

The USC/Times Poll finds anything but public agreement on the act, and the division has distinctly racial tones. According to the poll, Whites disapprove of the act by a margin of 66 percent to 30 percent, whereas Latinos support it by a margin of 79 percent to 16 percent.

California's make-up is changing at an incredibly fast rate. Today, there are almost as many Latinos (37 percent) as non-Hispanic Whites (43 percent).

But the contrasts are stark.

Using 2006 data, the median per capita income for Whites was $35,000, compared to $19,000 for Latinos.

As a result, different parts of the diverse population have distinctly varied needs from government, including support for higher education.

In other words, Latinos have fewer choices and less financial ability to gain the necessary education and training for well-paying jobs.

All of which makes the DREAM Act so significant.

The legislature passed the DREAM Act to give undocumented immigrants a chance to succeed, even though opportunities for success are greatly diminished by disproportionately high K-12 dropout rates.

Yet, most Whites in California feel otherwise, if the Field data has any merit.

If nothing else, the opinions about the DREAM Act illustrate the polarization over the immigration issue in California.

As the Latino population grows relative to the White segment, disagreement over race and ethnicity-related issues may well increase in the near term.

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