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Legislation protecting state’s Dreamers advances in Olympia

OLYMPIA (Jan. 25, 2018) — On a bipartisan 38-11 vote, the Washington State Senate approved legislation on Wednesday that would protect state financial aid eligibility for undocumented students. SB 5074, sponsored by Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle), would protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients from losing College Bound state financial aid if the DACA program is eliminated at the federal level, as the Trump Administration has threatened.

Meanwhile, the House Higher Education committee advanced similar legislation on Wednesday, HB 1488, sponsored by Rep. Drew Hansen (D-Bainbridge Island). That bill could soon get a vote from the full House. The bills are strongly supported by the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO and several unions, including AFT Washington and the Washington Education Association, which represent employees at the state’s colleges.

“We can do something right here in Washington state to make sure these students don’t lose their financial aid and college affordability benefits – even if DACA is eliminated,” Hansen said.

Graciela Nuñez Pargas (center) speaks at Wednesday’s press conference.

DACA recipient Graciela Nuñez Pargas, who is the WSLC’s 2018 Legislative Intern, and several other Dreamers joined Senate and House sponsors of the legislation at a press conference Wednesday, where she shared her story and strongly urged passage of HB 1488:

“Immigrant students, particularly those that are undocumented, come from economically deprived communities where working-class families are living paycheck-to-paycheck. At the University of Washington, I witnessed friends drop out because couldn’t work as many hours as necessary and go to class, too. They did not have the money or access to financial aid resources available to the majority of students. I wanted to change this issue by organizing undocumented student support groups and centering our experiences in the political discourse. I did not want more friends to have their talents and ambitions be wasted over something outside their control — a broken immigration system. When economic barriers are demolished for undocumented students we all win because we invest in future professionals and leaders. If this bill becomes law, it will send a clear message to our vulnerable communities that Washingtonians believe in opening pathways to the American Dream.”

At Wednesday’s press event were (from left) Maribel Montes de Oca, Graciela Nunez Pargas, Salvador Salazar, and Paul Quinonez.

Michael Schutzler, CEO of the Washington Technology Innovation Association, a coalition of nearly 1,000 tech companies across the state, said the tech industry stands in solidarity with students protected under DACA, known as “Dreamers.”

“Our state is creating jobs 10 times faster than the state produces talent for those industries,” Schutzler said. “The last thing we need is people dropping out of college because they can’t afford it anymore.”

“I look forward to getting this bill to the governor’s desk, so our undocumented students don’t have to lose their financial aid and drop out of college. We want all our students – documented or undocumented — to stay in college, finish their degrees, and go on to get good jobs to support their families,” Hansen said.

ALSO TODAY in the (Spokane) Spokesman-Review — State Senate expands college aid for Dreamers, with or without DACA — Washington is poised to continue offering college aid to so-called Dreamers, even if Congress doesn’t act to save the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program. The state Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation Wednesday that would allow undocumented immigrants of college age, who were brought to the United States as children and graduated from a Washington high school, to be eligible for some new types of state financial aid.

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