Senate votes to extend college financial aid to state Dreamers

The bipartisan effort is intended to send a message to the other Washington while creating opportunities for young immigrants.

A bipartisan effort in the Senate on Wednesday afternoon led to the passage of a bill that would extend financial opportunities in higher education to some undocumented immigrant students in Washington state.

Senate Bill 5074 makes some existing scholarships available to undocumented students who are eligible under previously-established guidelines.

In 2003 the state Legislature passed House Bill 1079, which allowed undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at Washington colleges so long as they had received a high school diploma, lived in the state for three years prior to graduation, and had continued to live in the state since then. In 2014, two years after an executive order by then-President Barack Obama allowed protections for undocumented youth who arrived in the United States before the age of 16, the state legislature passed the REAL Hope Act, augmenting HB 1079 to allow undocumented students that meet the original bill’s criteria to receive state-funded financial aid.

Now the supporters of a new bill, SB 5074, hope to extend a number of state scholarships, grants, and loans to these students as well.

The move comes at a moment of heightened tension over the fate of those who have benefitted from Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. President Donald Trump rescinded DACA in September 2017, with implementation of his order delayed for six months. Congress is currently debating the fate of the program as the March deadline looms over the recipients, also known as Dreamers.

A prime sponsor of SB 5074, Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, said the new bill provides an extra sense of security to Washington’s undocumented students at a time when federal policy is unsettling.

“I cannot think of a more appropriate statement for this Senate to make at a time when the futures of thousands of young people in our state and across the country are up in the air,” Frockt said. “In Washington, we recognize their value as students and as leaders in the only country they have ever known.”

Frockt’s bill passed in the Senate with a 38-11 vote and is headed to the House of Representatives.

Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, was one of several who spoke in support of the bill. Ranker serves as chair of the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee, which moved the bill to the senate floor. Ranker thanked fellow committee members Sen. Brad Hawkins, R-Spokane and Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way, for moving the bill in a bipartisan fashion.

“We are fulfilling a promise today to make absolutely sure that every student—no matter who you are or when you came to this country—has access to college and the opportunity to succeed,” Ranker said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Miloscia said passage of the bill was the morally correct thing to do, and promised a return of investment as well.

“Washington state will prosper if we make sure these sons and daughters, these brothers and sisters of ours, reach that final step,” Miloscia said. “This is the right thing to do, let’s vote for this.”

Voting no on the bill was Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, who said there was not enough funding to make up for additional students receiving aid. Baumgartner proposed an amendment for the state to create additional funding, which failed to pass by one vote.

“This bill is an empty promise,” Baumgartner said. “If this was such a great and important thing, the majority of this body would have found $5 million to fund it.”

Also opposed was Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, who proposed an amendment that would make the bill apply only to undocumented students currently living in the state. Ericksen said his concern was the bill would create an incentive for immigrants to illegally enter Washington.

“I think it’s rather immoral to create this incentive because what happens is you have children who are sent across the southern border by themselves,” Ericksen said. “Many of those children die coming to America.”

Ericksen said he believed such immigrants have the best of intentions when coming to the United States, although he is concerned about their safety and the safety of federal agents on the border.

Frockt did not express such concerns about those would apply for financial aid, explaining that there are still requirements to be met before a student is eligible.

“These are young people who are doing all the right things,” Frockt said. “They deserve the full promise that our state and this country have to offer.”

This report was produced by the Olympia bureau of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.

[flipp]

More in Northwest

Vehicles passing through flooded street. File photo
King County Flood Control District to vote on 2020 budget

The budget will fund a variety of programs across the county.

Sound Publishing file photo
King County Council authorizes staff to draft road levy ballot measure

The county is projected to run out of capital funding for roads and bridges by 2025.

West Point Treatment Plant report due in January

The report will look at ways to keep adequate power flowing to the plant after a July spill.

Flying Fish: Lake Sammamish kokanee move to Orcas Island

It’s part of a program to preserve the unique freshwater salmon species.

Malena Gaces, left, and other members of Washington CAN protest unfair move-out charges and alleged discriminatory behavior outside Kitts Corner Apartments in Federal Way in 2018. Sound Publishing file photo
King County could increase tenant protections

The council is considering ordinances designed to help renters.

The 2015 Wolverine Fire in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest near Lake Chelan. Photo courtesy of the Washington Department of Natural Resources.
The smoky summer that wasn’t

While Washington had a mild season, wildfires burned near the Arctic.

Dane Scarimbolo and Dominique Torgerson run Four Horsemen Brewery in Kent. They were almost shut down in late 2017 by King County, which after years of letting them operate a brewery and taproom, decided they were in violation of county code. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Proposed winery ordinance irks King County farmers, neighbors and businesses

Concerns include more traffic, higher land prices, code enforcement and compliance.

Several roads in King County, including the Snoqualmie Parkway, were closed when a brief snow storm struck the region last February. File photo
More roads in King County could be plowed during winter storms

Proposal targets 70 more miles in unincorporated areas.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Kim Schrier held a roundtable at the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank on Oct. 3 to talk about the Trump administration’s plan to further change SNAP food benefits rules and reduce the number of people using them. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Murray, Schrier vow to fight White House restrictions on food stamps

Senator and Representative met Oct. 3 at Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank.

King County is not on track to meet its greenhouse gas emissions goals, but emissions also have not been rising with population growth. File photo
King County isn’t on track to meet emissions goals

The goals were ambitious but progress has been slow.

King County is considering ways to increase both the supply of and demand for compost to help divert organic material from the landfill. File photo
King County wants to boost composting market

In 2018, around one-third of material sent to regional landfill could have been composted.

Bellevue is the most expensive place in the region to rent an apartment, according to a new analysis. Courtesy photo
Several Eastside cities are among most expensive to rent in Northwest

Bellevue topped the list for highest apartment rents during the first half of 2019.