On Jan. 31, 2014 the Washington State Senate passed their own version of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act titled the Real Educational Access Changing Lives Hope Act which would expand state financial aid to eligible undocumented students. While it has its differences, most elements are similar. The legislation is currently predicted to be adopted given its passage through the Senate.
“For students that qualify, it would be the first time they have the opportunity to access funds for their education, said Andrea Torres, a BC student. While Washington passed in-state tuition for undocumented students in 2003, many undocumented students have still struggled to afford and maintain the cost of tuition. The recent development comes after the previous legislative session where senate leadership blocked the DREAM Act from passing. The house challenged the Senate this year in passing the piece of legislation again on the very first day of session.
Much of the controversy comes from the widening gap of unfunded citizens who are eligible for state financial aid as well as the notion that undocumented immigrants do not pay taxes.
Washington state currently has 32,000 unserved students, 21,000 of whom belong to community and technical colleges. The most recent piece of legislation, the REAL Hope Act, would allocate $5 million in additional funds to offset the cost and ensure that citizens are taken care of as well.
Regarding taxes, according to OneAmerica’s “Building Washington’s Future: Immigrant Workers’ Contributions to Our State’s Economy” of 2009, immigrants contributed $1.48 billion in tax revenue. Additionally, on a national level, $57.8 billion will forever remain unclaimed from the Social Security system. Additionally, “the state would lose $14.5 billion in economic activity, $6.4 billion in gross state product, and approximately 71,197 jobs” without its undocumented immigrants, according to “New Americans in Washington: The Political and Economic Power of Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians in the Evergreen State” produced by the Immigration Policy Center in January 2012.
The Real Hope Act would expand state financial aid to undocumented students who meet a series of requirements. Requirements include pursuing residency and citizenship at “the earliest opportunity the individual is eligible to do so,” have received a diploma or its equivalent in Washington and been granted deferred action for childhood arrivals status.
Torres highlights that “there [are] always going to be those of us who for a reason or another don’t qualify,” making this a big step but not a black and white solution. Part of the problem with linking our state expansion of financial aid to DACA is that “the students that are in need of this come from low income families, and it’s not uncommon that those students have not yet applied for theirs. The reason is not because they’re not qualified, but because the cost of the DACA application and lawyer fees become too expensive, especially if you have siblings,” said Torres.
“[Such challenges are why] it is important that BC continues to have an Undocumented Task Force.” The Undocumented Student Task Force and the BC Foundation have established the BC Dreamer’s Scholarship Fund for Undocumented Students. The Associated Student Government has also been attempting to raise money for the cause.
Following its passage through the Senate, the REAL Hope Act was later agreed upon to be renamed the DREAM Act. Based off of previous track records, the legislation is expected to pass. Should it do so, the policy would go into effect “90 days after adjournment of session in which bill is passed.” Donations are accepted through the BC Foundation with mentioning of the DREAM Scholarship Fund.