HARTFORD — With a jab at the president’s views on immigration, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed legislation Friday that opens limited financial aid at public colleges in Connecticut to the undocumented “dreamers,” saying the new law was good policy and its bipartisan passage was positive politics.
“I think that this is an important day,” said Malloy, surrounded by students and advocates. “It is perhaps even more important in a society that has taken a turn for the worse, I think, when it comes to individuals who are in our country and our president’s comments have sought to demonize.”
The bill passed the House, 91-59, and the Senate, 30-5. The House vote Wednesday came a day after a federal judge dealt a setback to efforts by the administration of President Donald Trump to roll back limited protections for undocumented immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.
DACA was created by the Obama administration on the premise that children illegally brought to the U.S., many of whom have known no other home, should be treated as low priorities for deportation while they seek legal status. About 700,000 persons have signed up for the program.
Malloy cast the bill-signing, which will help some DACA recipients attend college, in the larger context of the Trump administration’s continued opposition to the program.
“It’s a toxic environment in which to exist, and I hope the message is to the rest of the world that there is another way, that we can treat people fairly and honestly,” Malloy said. “We can do [it] in their best interest and, quite frankly, our own best interests.”
To qualify for tuition aid under the new law, a student must have moved to the U.S. before age 17, attended a Connecticut high school for at least two years, have no significant criminal record and be under age 36. State residents who are undocumented and have been honorably discharged from the military also will be eligible for aid.
The new law enables eligible undocumented residents to apply for the aid starting January 1, 2020, while honorably discharged veterans will be allowed to apply immediately. Federal Pell grants and state-taxpayer aid provided through the Roberta Willis Scholarship still will be unavailable. The law opens access to money the state’s public colleges set aside for financial aid from tuition dollars.
Malloy said the young adults have been educated in public schools in the U.S., and they are needed in the workforce. White House opposition to them remaining in the country makes no sense, he said.
“But the time I expect our president to make sense has long passed.”