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Attempt to extend student financial aid to illegal immigrants stalls bill

Post by Jimmy Lovaas / The News Tribune on March 12, 2013 at 5:13 pm with No Comments »
March 12, 2013 5:31 pm

A political fight over illegal immigrants receiving student financial aid has stalled a bill in the Senate.

Senate Bill 5195 would extend the college State Need Grant to students at Western Governors University Washington, the state’s nonprofit online university. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, is the bill’s prime sponsor.

However, the proposal stalled after Democratic Senator Ed Murray of Seattle introduced an amendment to the bill. Murray’s amendment would add language to state law regarding who can receive the State Need Grant, making the aid available to some illegal immigrants with a special immigration status provided under an Obama plan.

When Murray’s amendment was read on the Senate floor, Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, objected. Bailey, who is a cosponsor of the bill, said the amendment went beyond the scope of the original bill – a procedural maneuver that resulted in the bill being put on hold until the President of the Senate, Lt. Gov. Brad Owens, can rule on whether or not the amendment strayed too far from the bill’s confines.

It was Murray’s second attempt at extending financial aid to Dream Act students.

In early February, Murray introduced a bill that would have done just that. Proponents of the bill were quick to label it “The Washington State Dream Act.” However, that bill died in Bailey’s Higher Education committee, having never been scheduled for a public hearing.

During an earlier committee hearing on SB 5195, Ann Anderson from Central Washington University testified that she is concerned the bill would cause some students to lose their aid. Anderson, who represents the Council of Presidents, said 31,000 students were eligible for the grant last year, but didn’t receive the aid due to underfunding.

A bill in the House that would extend the State Need Grant to some illegal immigrants is also awaiting a floor vote. However, with nearly 80 bills on the House calendar, there’s no guarantee the bill will move.

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