Newsom Encourages Mexican Influx Amid Biden’s Border Challenges

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) approved a new law that provides Mexican residents living within 45 miles of the California-Mexico border with access to in-state community college tuition rates.

Rep. David Alvarez, a Democrat representing Chula Vista and the bill’s author, stated, “Last week, Governor Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 91, creating a pilot program to allow low-income students who live near the California-Mexico border a discounted tuition rate. This pilot program can unlock a significant untapped resource to prepare a more diverse population among our workforce. I want to thank all the advocates who supported this bill and for fighting to expand education opportunities to every community.”

This legislation is slated to become effective on January 1, 2024, coinciding with a significant border crisis in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security has documented the entry of 3.8 million individuals into the country since the beginning of 2021, with almost half of them categorized as “gotaways,” meaning they were not apprehended by Border Patrol agents, screened against national security watchlists or issued notices to appear in court for asylum hearings.

Alvarez supported the initiative as a means to “address the demand for skilled workers” and “promote a more diverse workforce and economy” by “reducing the barrier of high tuition expenses for low-income students.”

Assembly Bill 91 additionally formalizes that a “community college district may contract with a state, a county contiguous to California, the federal government or a foreign country or an agency thereof, for payment of all or a part of a nonresident student’s tuition fee.”

This indicates that Mexican students might potentially access existing programs for tuition exemptions and financial aid that are already accessible to low-income students and undocumented immigrants.

Under current regulations, students from families classified as “low income” with household incomes falling below the poverty line often qualify for tuition waivers that reduce their tuition to zero. Additionally, through the California College Promise Grant Fee Waiver program, undocumented students have the opportunity to receive tuition waivers.

In California, the poverty threshold for a four-person household stands at $36,900. In 2022, the average household income in Mexico was $15,200. This implies that a majority of Mexican families could potentially meet the criteria for free community college tuition in California if educational institutions choose to accept their tuition waiver requests.

Despite the limited number of colleges partaking in the trial initiative, the state anticipates that the program will incur annual costs reaching into the “millions” of dollars. If, at each of the pilot colleges, 150 full-time-equivalent students, which refers to students utilizing credits equivalent to those of a full-time student, enroll in the program, the annual cost would amount to $6.3 million.