Community College's Scholarship Catches Grief

A scholarship for illegal immigrants has stoked the ongoing immigration debate in California.

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If the new laws in Arizona didn't do enough to make the immigration fire hotter, a new scholarship for illegal immigrants at a California community college will.

The scholarship to Santa Ana College is in memory of Tam Ngoc Tran, a former Santa Ana student and illegal immigrant who was killed in a car accident on May 15. Tran was on the path to U.S. citizenship and an ardent DREAM Act activist, pushing for legislation that would allow illegal immigrants to receive financial aid for college. Tran attended UCLA after studying at Santa Ana. The 27-year-old Californian was working on a doctorate at Brown University when she was killed.

The goal of the scholarship is to help a student on a path to citizenship, Sara Lundquist, vice president of student affairs at Santa Ana, tells the Orange County Register.

"Tam dedicated her time and energy advocating for children of undocumented immigrants who were brought into this country and grew up as Americans, but are not even permanent residents," Lundquist tells the Register.

Santa Ana College will match $2,500 in scholarship funds, and the school hopes others will add to the fund and make its impact even greater. Lundquist says the school wants to make it an annual scholarship. Requirements for the scholarship are a 3.0 or higher grade-point average and evidence of financial need, the report says.

"The award recipient should also be someone who will continue their education and go into a university after Santa Ana College," Lundquist said.

But the new scholarship has its fair share of opponents. Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who represents parts of Orange County, "blasted" the use of financial aid funds for illegal immigrants, the Register reports. Rohrabacher wrote a letter to Santa Ana President Erlina Martinez. While acknowledging the tragic death of Tran, Rohrabacher wrote that "channeling our scarce resources to illegal immigrants, even if they are students, is unforgivable at a time when so many of our citizens and legal residents are struggling to meet their own education needs.

Rohrabacher says the public financing of the scholarship is a direct "affront to law-abiding citizens [whose] tax dollars will foot the bill." According to the Register, the release announcing the scholarship says that the scholarship will be funded by the Santa Ana College Foundation, so no tax dollars or public money would be used. Either way, the topic is headed for some hot debate in the coming weeks and months.

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