State Legislature approves DREAM Act for immigrants’ children

Gov. Jay Inslee Credit: Governor's Office

The DREAM Act. The Real Hope Act. By any name, it's a winner with the state Legislature.

The Washington House passed a Senate version of the bill 75-22 Tuesday to send it to Gov Jay Inslee for his signature. The bill makes Washington high school graduates whose parents are undocumented immigrants eligible to apply for college financial aid.

Recently, 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 Senate 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. Also, the majority coalition's bill changed the name of the "DREAM Act" to the "Real Hope Act."

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 suddenly reversed earlier this month 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. That speed irritated some Republican Senators who argued that the new bill should have received a public hearing first.

The bill would add $5 million to the current $267 million college aid pool, from which more than tens of thousands of 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.

"While we’ve opened the doors of our colleges and universities to students from all walks of life, too many still face an insurmountable financial barrier,” Inslee said in a written statement. “This bill ensures that the young men and women we’ve invested in at our high schools and who aspire to become productive American citizens will now have fair access to the financial support they need to turn their dreams into reality."

For exclusive coverage of the state government, check out Crosscut's Under the Dome page.

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