By GRACIELA NUÑEZ PARGAS
In another win for the progressive labor movement, undocumented youth are now eligible for the College Bound scholarships regardless of immigration status. HB 1488, prime sponsored by Rep. Drew Hansen (D-Bainbridge Is.), known as the “DREAM Act 2.0,” changes the residency requirement for students to be eligible for in-state college tuition grants. It became law after three years of student advocacy, community engagement, and coalition building. Labor partnered with all stakeholders to advance the bill in a strong bipartisan fashion (House Vote #18 and Senate Vote #12).
The DREAM Act 2.0 passed during a critical moment in our nation’s history with the uprising of youth-led activism and an increased visibility of intersectional movements. Our state leaders stood in support of immigrant students by strengthening scholarship programs that reflect our diverse schools. Together, we leveled the playing field for student achievement in the College Bound scholarship program.
To qualify, a student must be in 7th or 8th grade and meet the income requirements for enrollment in the free or reduced school meals program. The student must sign the “College Bound Pledge” committing to maintain a 2.0 GPA, have no felony convictions, and attend a state higher education institution within a year of graduating high school. The College Bound program helps underprivileged students receive academic resources and financial support as they pursue a degree.
From the time a student is in middle school until their college graduation, the College Bound program believes every student can succeed without having their financial background dictate an uncertain future. Similarly, immigrant families prioritize education because it offers a pathway for their children to attain upward social mobility. Going to college is one strategy for first-generation students as they attempt to break the cycle of poverty burdening their families. A student’s immigration status should not doom their prospects of joining an educated and professional workforce.
The labor community understands the plight of disenfranchised groups because our histories intersect with a shared struggle for justice. We fight for gender pay equity, health care access and affordability, bargaining rights, workplace safety, and other issues that help working-class families. As we strive towards healthier and safer communities, we have to continue working against the spread of fear and discrimination. The DREAM Act 2.0 moves us closer to more equitable practices by promoting educational opportunities for all.
Graciela Nuñez Pargas served as 2018 Legislative Intern for the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the Evergreen State, representing the interests of more than 600 local unions and approximately 450,000 rank-and-file union members.