Largely bipartisan vote in Senate supports help for immigrants’ children
by John Stang
Sen. Rodney Tom (left) leads the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus and Sen. Mark Schoesler leads the Republicans, who form most of the coalition membership. Credit: Photo: John Stang
The DREAM Act sailed through the Washington Senate on Friday with a 35-10 vote in favor of letting the children of undocumented immigrants apply for college financial aid.
The Majority Coalition Caucus version of the bill was a clone of Democratic bills from the 2013 and 2014 sessions — except that it added $5 million to help implement the aid.
This is the first major bill in which the majority coalition members split among themselves in 2013 and 2014. The 35 "yes" votes included 10 Republicans and the two Democratic members of the majority coalition. Ten Republicans voted no. And four conservative Republicans were absent. (The roll call vote on the bill is here.)
The majority coalition had long blocked the 2013 Democratic bill from coming to a Senate floor vote despite support for the measure from some of its own members. However, that stance was suddently reversed Thursday with a surprise announcement of the new version of the bill from several coalition members, including Majority Coalition Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, and Republican Caucus Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville.
The bill sponsored by Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, zipped through Senate without a hearing — moving from introduction to Senate approval in less than 24 hours. The bill now goes to the House where the Democrats and half of the Republicans already support the concept.
The bill makes Washington high school graduates whose parents are undocumented immigrants eligible to apply for state college aid. "The ladder to a livable wage begins with opportunity," Tom said.
"Nobody should have the door closed to their dream university because they can't get [financial aid] even though they grew up here," said Senate Minority Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island.
The bill would add $5 million to the current $267 million college aid pool, from which 32,000 students can apply for aid. It hasn't been calculated how many new students would receive aid, or what amounts they would be eligible to receive. The source of the extra $5 million also has to be hashed out between the Senate and House's budget negotiators.
Sen.Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, tried to amend the measure for it to sunset it in four years with the idea that the concept should be revisited then. That amendment failed. He ultimately against final passage of the bill.