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Should the state pay tuition for undocumented students?

A new bill, from Sen. Ed Murray, would do just that.
Carlos Padilla of Seattle (left) and Tania Santiago of Redmond speak in Olympia in support of a bill for undocumented students like themselves.

Carlos Padilla of Seattle (left) and Tania Santiago of Redmond speak in Olympia in support of a bill for undocumented students like themselves. John Stang

Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle

Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle John Stang

Tania Santiago and Carlos Padilla moved from separate cities in Mexico to the United States before they were old enough to enter kindergarten. Tania and Carlos both grew up around Puget Sound, went to school, joined extra-curricular activities. Both went to the University of Washington (although Carlos switched to Seattle Central Community College for a while because of the costs), picked up some private scholarships along the way and plan to become attorneys. Carlos, 20, wants to become a U.S. Air Force pilot first, while Tania, 21, wants to earn a master's degree.

They always thought of themselves as American, but both Tania and Carlos are still technically undocumented immigrants. "We are part of the community, and we love this country," Santiago said.

And both (along with several other immigrant college kids) backed a Tuesday proposal by Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, to make undocumented immigrant students eligible for State Need Grants and state College Bound Scholarships. Murray plans to introduce the bill soon.

Murray's bill will run smack into one filed by Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver. Benton's bill would prohibit undocumented immigrants from qualifying as resident students to obtain in-state tuition and financial aid — even if they have lived in Washington for years. Several days ago, Benton contended those prospective college students are in the nation illegally and should not take aid away from U.S. citizens.

Roughly 32,000 Washington students were turned down for State Need Grants in 2012. Adding undocumented students would add a few hundred to that pool of applicants. To raise money for the extra grants, Murray cited his earlier proposal to take a capital gains tax to voters in November.

Gov. Jay Inslee and the ruling coalition in the Senate both oppose all new taxes. Still, Murray hopes that when budget figures start emerging in March, they will become more receptive to a new tax.

Murray called Benton's proposal "an unfortunate bill."

The Democratic Senator noted that the state's Latino population grew 350 percent from 1990 to 2010. He said that the bulk of the state's farmworkers — who provide most of the labor for Washington's top-ranked apple, grape, pear, sweet cherry, hops and red raspberry industries — are undocumented immigrants. Washington's agricultural production has jumped across the board since 1986: From 145 percent for pears to 805 percent for sweet cherries, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures.

Murray believes that taking away undocumented workers would cripple the state's agricultural dominance.

"We're making a lot of money from these people. We need to send something back to them. ... We're talking about a group of people who are paying taxes [such as sales taxes]," Murray said. "These kids are on your daughter's basketball team and sit next to your son in lab and work on the same science projects."

Are Washington's Republicans likely to agree on these points? Maybe. Murray pointed to the GOP's political soul-searching after losing the Washington gubernatorial and United States presidential elections. Maybe, he speculated, GOP senators are considering a friendlier stance toward undocumented immigrants.

John Stang covers state government for Crosscut. He can be reached by writing editor@crosscut.com.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Feb 6, 3:53 a.m. Inappropriate

We do not need to install a tax in order to pay for tuition for illegal immigrants. Why wasn't Murray trying to get money for the citizens who have been turned down for these grants? What is so special about illegal immigrants?

Illegal immigrants are a burden on our state, reduce wages, and increase unemployment and poverty. It is tiring that politicians are more interested in benefiting, and providing opportunity, to foreigners over our nation, and states's own citizens.

Murray completely lost my vote for Mayor, or any elected office in the future. This is nothing but a spit in the face of United States Citizens who work.

jhande

Posted Wed, Feb 6, 6:05 a.m. Inappropriate

If YOUR elected officials are intent on giving away YOUR public institutions stop giving them YOUR money.

BlueLight

Posted Wed, Feb 6, 6:13 a.m. Inappropriate

Murray is blissfully unaware of efforts by Washington State Farmers to bring foreign workers to Washington via a "legal" Government sponsored program for AG work he claims cannot be done by anyone but illegal aliens.

http://www.theolympian.com/2013/02/05/2411459/wash-farm-labor-group-recruits.html?storylink=fb

It makes you wonder about all of the other subjects Murray and his fellow Democrats are willing to lie about to achieve their political agenda goals.

Cameron

Posted Wed, Feb 6, 11:25 a.m. Inappropriate

The middle class can't pay for college. I tell my kids they can't have a cell phone because we can't afford it. They tell me every kid on free and reduced lunch has an I-phone.

If you are below cutoff income of 40K where the state pays for food, housing, medical, dental, energy, landlines, assistance wireless, internet, and then a free college education in Washington for your children, you are fine.

So yes, I think immigrants who have gone to high school in WA and graduated should get in state tuition. But, funds need to be spread across the board to simply make in state tuition cheaper. Everyone needs help.

Posted Thu, Feb 7, 11:36 a.m. Inappropriate

Yes, all talented young students should have a chance to compete for financial aid to attend college and work in Washington. Why would we want to invest in public education for immigrant students for years and then cut off that support when they're ready for higher education and to then contribute fully in our economy?

Glad to see Rep. Murray is supporting a common sense bill and offering ways to pay for it.

Posted Thu, Feb 7, 5:46 p.m. Inappropriate

What exactly is the difference between an "immigrant Student" and an "illegal immigrant " student? Perhaps the legal right to be here and receive a subsidy? Murray needs to resign and make his run for mayor so he can lose and stop bothering the taxpayers of Washington State.

Cameron

Posted Mon, Feb 11, 4:40 p.m. Inappropriate

I want to go to McGill University in Quebec.

Can I live illegally in Canada and pay in-province tuition for a cheap college degree?

Posted Mon, Feb 11, 4:44 p.m. Inappropriate

Cameron "Murray is blissfully unaware of efforts by Washington State Farmers to bring foreign workers to Washington via a "legal" Government sponsored program for AG work he claims cannot be done by anyone but illegal aliens."

http://www.theolympian.com/2013/02/05/2411459/wash-farm-labor-group-recruits.html?storylink=fb

Indeed. If the jobs can't be filled by Americans' it means the job doesn't pay what the market demands. If it means the price of agricultural products goes up, so be it.

Or we can repeal certain Constitutional Amendments and go back to chattel slavery, that will lower the price of apples.

Sometimes I think all this liberal "concern" for the "undocumented" is really a concern for getting Bellevue and Mercer Island lawns mowed and landscaped, cheap.

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