The Washington State Legislature passed its State version of a DREAM Act this week, which is intended to create opportunity for certain undocumented students through the increased availability of state-based need grants. According to the Seattle P-I, this was the first major bipartisan bill to pass the legislature this year. The bill will be signed into law by Governor Inslee, who stated via Twitter that he is “Proud to give fair access and financial support to aspiring Washington students.” The passage of the bill has been more than 6 years in the making.
Senate Bill 6523 expands the availability of state need grants to:
• Any person who has completed the full senior year of high school and obtained a high school diploma, either at a Washington State public high school or an approved private high school, or a person who has received the equivalent of a diploma;
• Who has lived in Washington State for at least three years immediately before receiving the diploma or its equivalent;
• Who has continuously lived in Washington State after receiving the diploma or its equivalent and until such time as the individual is admitted to an eligible institution of higher education and has been granted deferred action for childhood arrival status (DACA) pursuant to federal rules.
The act itself says that is it to be known and cited as the Real Hope Act, and includes an appropriation of $5 million.
The concept behind the law is that hardworking students should be provided with opportunity, which is good for all. More than 15 states have now passed variations of their own DREAM act. Washington State will be the fourth state, along with New Mexico, California and Texas, to allow financial aid to undocumented students. Washington State includes the grant of DACA status as a prerequisite to receiving aid, and so the underlying requirements and costs of the DACA program will qualify eligibility.
Besides creating opportunity for education, this law also shows the growing reach of President Obama’s DACA program, which has been implemented without the vote of Congress. The President said in his recent State of the Union address that he would act where Congress does not, to meet the immediate needs of the U.S. people. Washington’s Dream Act is yet another case where a state government took action to deal with the on-the-ground realities of Congress’ inaction on immigration reform.
National politics aside, this law feels like a win for Washington’s young people and the economy, and is great to see the State Legislature support this bill in bipartisan fashion..