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As Congress moves forward with immigration reform, we take a look at how this issue connects to culture, business and families in the Northwest.Our region is home to a unique blend of immigrants who work in all parts of our economy — from high-tech to agriculture. This population already has a deeply-rooted history here. And its ranks are expanding rapidly.Proposals for comprehensive immigration reform address border security, employment verification, guest-worker programs and pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US.

Wash. Dream Act Unlikely To Clear Senate

Flickr Photo/Dave Herholz

Supporters of a bill dubbed the Washington Dream Act plan to make one more uphill push in Olympia Tuesday. The measure would extend state financial aid to eligible college students who are in the US illegally. Hopes for the bill dwindled this weekend as a key state senator spoke out against the measure.
Republican Sen. Barbara Bailey, chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, said the grant program is already too underfunded to add more students to the mix. “This isn’t just about whether you’re here legally or not, it’s also about the money,” Bailey said. “The state’s financial assistance program needs to be looked at more closely before eligibility is extended to a new group.”

The bill in question centers on the State Need Grantprogram, which offers college aid to students from low-income families. Last year, the state turned down more than 31,000 eligible students who applied for this funding. Bailey says the measure would make a financial promise to more students that the state can’t keep.

The legislation, House Bill 1817, passed the state House in March and now appears to be stalled in the Senate Higher Education Committee. Bailey said she has no plans to move the bill to a vote.

Some supporters have pointed out that Bailey voted for a different bill that would extend the State Need Grant to students at Western Governors University, an online college in Washington.  

Jean Floten, Chancellor of Western Governors University, said she’s pleased the bill targeting her students is moving forward but she’d also like to see undocumented students eligible for the program.

 “In a perfect world, I think that both of these populations should be served,” Floten said. “Those students are here because of actions that their parents have taken and they’re really, truly lost between two worlds. So I have a great deal of compassion for them and also for our needy students.”

Immigrant advocates expect a few hundred supporters at the Statehouse in Olympia Tuesday, as the bill faces a Wednesday deadline to move out of the Senate Higher Education Committee.

Year started with KUOW: 2006