A group of about 15 people gathered on the steps of the state Capitol in Olympia Monday to urge lawmakers to extend state college need grants to students who aren’t legal U.S. residents.
Representatives of Washington’s Latino community said the Legislature still has time to pass House Bill 1817, which cleared the state House but didn’t get a committee hearing in the state Senate this year. The bill, which supporters have dubbed the Washington state DREAM Act, would allow high school students who qualify for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to apply for state financial aid.
Lawmakers are mired in budget talks right now as they try to avert a government shutdown that will begin July 1 if they don’t pass a budget by June 30, the end of the current budget cycle. But attendees at Monday’s rally said they are still asking lawmakers to consider passing the DREAM Act this year.
“Every day we work with young people who have dreams, who want to go to college, who want a better life,” said Estela Ortega, executive director of El Centro de la Raza in Seattle. “All of our children need an opportunity to succeed, and that is why we’re here today.”
State Rep. Marcie Maxwell, D-Renton, said at the rally that she thinks that all students who attend high school in Washington should be given equal opportunities for financial aid, regardless of their citizenship or residency status.
“These are our kids,” Maxwell said. “The children that we’re leaving behind because we haven’t passed the DREAM Act — that’s unacceptable to me.”
Speakers at the rally included two University of Washington graduates who came to the United States as children.
Ray Corona, 21, said he was ineligible to work in the United States until Congress approved the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program last year. Corona, who graduated from the University of Washington Bothell last week, said he understands how the cost of tuition can be a barrier to many students — especially immigrants who aren’t certain they’ll be able to get a job after college to pay off their debt.
“The past four years I’ve been in school, every year tuition rose by 10 percent, 15 percent,” Corona said. “That is why we need the state DREAM Act.”
Rep. Luis Moscoso, D-Mountlake Terrace, said that although chances of passing the bill this year are slim, supporters need to continue lobbying their legislators to help the bill’s chances next year.
“We’re are recognizing a point in history right now that things have to change going forward,” Moscoso said.