The governor's office issued a statement announcing the decision to sign AB 131 -- which, together with another new state law forms what officials call the California Dream Act. The announcement quoted Brown as saying going to college "is a dream that promises intellectual excitement and creative thinking."
"Effective Jan. 1, 2013, AB 131 will make this limited pool of students eligible to apply for Cal Grants and other state aid," he said.
Current law requires undocumented students to pay the same tuition rates as state residents, provided they have graduated from a California high school and affirmed they are in the process of applying to legalize their immigration status. The new law will make this group of students eligible to apply for state aid.
The California Department of Finance estimates enactment of AB 131 will result in 2,500 students qualifying for about $14.5 million in state aid, the governor's office said.
U.S. President Barack Obama has criticized Republicans for not supporting Dream Act legislation, which would grant permanent residency to some undocumented students who graduate from U.S. high schools. At a Sept. 28 White House roundtable, he said he wants to "push Republicans back to where they were" on the issue a few years ago.
"We are a nation of laws, but we're also a nation of immigrants. Immigrants have … strengthened America's economy," Obama said.