What state Rep. Mariani says about the Minnesota DREAM Act

The radio story I did yesterday for MPR -- "Bill would ease college financial challenges for students illegally in Minnesota" -- had to leave a few things out, so I thought I'd update you today.

(The people in the first two photos of this post are the ones in the piece, by the way.)

As you may have heard, it's a bill designed to give immigrant students who are in this state illegally -- known by many as "undocumented students" -- access to in-state tuition, State Grant funds and private scholarship funds raised by public colleges.

It's unofficially called the "Minnesota DREAM Act" in reference to the federal bill, last introduced in 2010 and possibly up again this year, which is designed to give such students a pathway to citizenship via college or the military. It comes with a number of requirements.

My piece focused on the Senate bill sponsored by DFL Senate President Sandy Pappas of St. Paul. You can read the text of the original bill -- it's short -- here.

Now the House companion bill has come out, and it's here. Its chief author is DFL Rep. Carlos Mariani of St. Paul.

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He told me:

"We do spend a lot of money educating these children in Minnesota public schools. And given the fact that a high school diploma is just the beginning in terms of being able to access careers, then that really becomes a wasted investment unless we're also investing in higher ed."

He says the recent Deferred Action program by the Obama administration (mentioned in my story) is a sign that the immigration environment is changing. He says the hope is that will prompt a new immigration policy that will produce a smooth path to citizenship.

Pappas says she has introduced similar legislation before, but it was voted down by Tim Pawlenty, the governor at the time.

She says the legislation had the support of business.

According to an ad publicizing a discussion on the issue this morning, Bill Blazar, senior vice president at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, was scheduled to talk.