The state Assembly voted Friday to send Gov. Jerry Brown a bill that allows undocumented immigrant college students to receive publicly funded financial aid.
After a lengthy debate, Assembly Bill 131 the second part of the controversial measure known as the California Dream Act cleared the lower house on a 45-27 vote.
"Today is a wonderful day," said Assemblyman Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella. "Today is a day of hope. Today, there are many students throughout the state of California who are saying, 'It's about time.' "
The bill allows access to taxpayer-funded financial aid for students who came to the country before age 16, attended a California high school for at least three years and graduated. Democrats argued that providing such students greater access to higher education would improve the state's economy in the long run by creating a more educated population.
Republicans didn't see it that way.
They argued that giving scholarships to students who are in the country illegally will encourage more immigrants to come to the state without authorization. They also said it doesn't make sense to subsidize the education of students who aren't allowed to legally work after they graduate.
"If we're going to invest in those students we should get some return on the investment when they leave school and go into the workforce," said Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills.
The Assembly's vote approved amendments made in the Senate, intended to address the bill's costs by not allowing graduates of technical schools and adult schools to participate, and delaying implementation until January 2013. Those are provisions Brown had sought.
An analysis of the amended bill said it would cost the state $23 million to $40 million a year.
The governor signed the first piece of the package in July, allowing undocumented immigrant students access to private financial aid. He said then that he planned to "look very favorably upon" its companion bill, the one the Assembly sent him Friday.