Opponents fall short of challenging California Dream Act

SAN FRANCISCO Fri Jan 6, 2012 11:36pm EST

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Organizers have failed to gather enough signatures for a California voter initiative aimed at barring illegal immigrants from receiving public aid for college, a leader of the campaign said on Friday.

The petition drive led by state Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Republican, took aim at 2011 legislation known as the California Dream Act.

The first part of the legislation signed into law in July by Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, allowed illegal immigrants to receive privately funded college scholarships.

The second part of the legislation signed in October also extended state-funded aid to certain illegal immigrants, and that is what opponents sought to overturn.

The effort to put a measure on the ballot to repeal that bill required 504,760 signatures, but organizers were only able to gather 447,514 signatures, Donnelly said.

Donnelly told supporters in a written statement that, despite failing to gather enough signatures, his group's effort was "no less of a warning to Governor Brown, and every Democrat legislator who voted to create a new entitlement program for illegals while the state still has a budget deficit."

Friday was the deadline for the opponents of the California Dream Act to submit their signatures to election officials, according to the group's website, which referred to the legislation as the "nightmare act."

Earlier this week, Donnelly was cited for misdemeanor gun possession after he was found to have a loaded gun in his carry-on luggage when he was stopped at a screening point at a Southern California airport. Donnelly said he had forgotten to take the gun out of his bag.

The two-part California Dream Act was authored by state Senator Gil Cedillo, a Democrat. He said in a statement that the proposed ballot measure would have taken the state in a "very negative, destructive and intentionally divisive direction."

Brown and other proponents of the California Dream Act argue it gives college-age illegal immigrants important education and skills they could use to contribute to the state's economy.

In Maryland, opponents of a 2011 bill that extended in-state tuition to illegal immigrants have qualified a measure for the November ballot aimed at overturning the law.

(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Peter Bohan)

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