December 18, 2011 8:00 PM
Natasha Lindstrom, Staff Writer

VICTORVILLE • With just three weeks left to collect nearly 505,000 signatures, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly is working to rally support to repeal the California Dream Act, a controversial new law that grants state financial aid to illegal immigrants.

A handful of Stop AB 131 volunteers spent Thursday afternoon gathering several dozen signatures in the parking lot of the Mall of Victor Valley.

This was among 19 locations promoted by Ken Champiou and John Kobylt, of KFI’s “The John & Ken Show,” to qualify a ballot initiative that could overturn AB 131 by Gil Cedillo, DLos Angeles. Other locations were also set up in Glendora, Chino, Highland, Pasadena and Redlands.

“It’s not legal for funds to be taken out of tax revenues for the state to invest in education of students that aren’t going to be able to get a job when they graduate because they won’t be legal citizens,” Tomas Sandoval, 49, of Hesperia, said after signing a petition in Victorville.

Signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in October, AB 131 qualifies illegal immigrants who are accepted into California public colleges to receive Cal Grants, community college fee waivers and other state financial aid beginning in 2013.

According to the legislation, state aid will only be dispersed to illegal immigrants after it’s been given out to all qualified legal residents or U.S. citizens.

The undocumented students must be working toward legal citizenship, have a high school diploma or equivalent and have attended a California high school for three years.

“We need legislation like the California Dream Act to put us on the path to stability,” said Conrado Terrazas, spokesman for Cedillo. “Education you have with you all the time, whereas immigration status can change.”

But Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, argues the bill includes no mechanism for ensuring legal residents get the aid first. He believes the Dream Act will lead to more illegal immigration.

“You’re talking about an investment — except for one thing: There’s no payback. No matter how much we feel for them, no matter how compassionate we might feel in our hearts for their situations, they aren’t legally authorized to work in the state of California so they can’t become part of that income stream,” Donnelly said. “It’s not fair to the legal residents who are trying to get classes and then get into the work force to give their spots to somebody who can’t work here.”

Donnelly said the campaign does not have a current signature tally but it has been making big fundraising gains in recent weeks, with funds now topping $100,000. A Palos Verdes donor pledged $25,000 over Thanksgiving weekend and committed to matching up to another $25,000 in funds collected through today.

Donnelly estimates some 4,400 volunteers have been distributing petitions statewide, along with 10 paid crews. One San Diego paid crew netted 10,000 signatures in 10 days.

“Two-thirds of this effort has been just volunteers so the count is very, very difficult to gauge,” Donnelly said.

The Department of Finance had said AB 131 could grant about $14.5 million from the $1.4 billion Cal Grant program, but the nonpartisan legislative analyst earlier this month estimated the state could give out $65 million.

“Common sense says we can’t afford it,” said Stop AB 131 volunteer Becky Otwell of the Victor Valley Republicans Club.

As the Jan. 6 deadline nears, the latest campaign push is dubbed “7-7-7,” asking supporters to donate $7 and get seven signatures in seven days.

AB 131 was the second part of Cedillo’s California Dream Act. The first bill, AB 130, was signed into law in July and enabled undocumented students at public colleges to get financial aid from private sources

For more information on the referendum, visit

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