Scholarship in memory of Tam Ngoc Tran
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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.
School officials say because Tran was crusading to help other illegal immigrant students like herself it is only fitting that the scholarship be geared towards undocumented immigrants. Recipients also have to be in need of financial aid and have at least a 3.0 grade point average.
In the end of his letter Rohrabacher tells Martinez that if she goes ahead with this scholarship she is “putting continued public financing for Santa Ana College in jeopardy.’’
"If they're going to thumb their nose at the American people who are paying the bill and thumb their nose at the law there could be moves against them to defund them,'' Rohrabacher said in an interview.
According to a news release announcing the scholarhip, it will be the Santa Ana College Foundation that will create the award so presumably no public dollars will be used for the prize.
The Costa Mesa Republican acknowledged that he probably couldn't be successul in getting something included in an education appropriations bill on this unless the GOP regained the majority in the House. But if they did, he said, he would try to get a provision in spending bills that institutions that give money to illegal immigrants would not be entitled to any federal funds.
Rep. Loretta Sanchez spoke about Tran on the floor of the House on Wednesday.
"Tam was a courageous leader who inspired many through her personal story of immigration. In 2007, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) raided the Tran home and subsequently arrested Tam and some of her family members,'' said Sanchez, D-Santa Ana..
"Representatives (Zoe) Lofgren, (D-SanJose), (Chris) Smith, (R-N.J.) and I wrote a letter to then Secretary Condoleezza Rice urging her to uphold the U.S. policy regarding the return of refugees to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, that would allow them to remain in the United States. "
No word yet from Sanchez on what she thinks of the Santa Ana College scholarship.