Saying he wants to increase access to higher education for students who are undocumented immigrants, Sen. Ed Murray plans to introduce a bill Wednesday granting them access to State Need Grants.
Murray, the Senate’s Democratic leader. introduced a bill last session, but the legislation never got a single hearing. At a news conference Tuesday, he said he is confident the bill will fare better this session, even though the Senate is controlled by the Majority Coalition Caucus, made up mostly of Republicans.
“We’ve had some good conversations with some Republicans who are interested in seeing some version of this bill,” said Murray, who has begun a campaign for Seattle mayor. “The demographics of the state are changing and I think that reality is affecting how some of our colleagues think about this.”
But this issue is tricky and has long been controversial. And even if Murray is able to generate bipartisan support, his bill could suffer from the state’s budget problems — especially since about 32,000 students were turned away from the State Need Grant in 2012.
Including undocumented students, that number could grow by about 800, according to Ricardo Sanchez, director of the Latino/a Educational Achievement Project.
Murray said he would solve that problem by allocating money to fund the State Need Grant from a capital gains tax. He has yet to introduce his capital gains tax bill.
Regardless of funding challenges, Murray said it’s the state’s duty to help undocumented immigrant students who live here obtain an education, given that population’s long contributions to the agricultural industry. He pointed out that many of these young people were brought to America as young children, and are, for all intents and purposes, Americans.
“Those young people should not be punished because they were brought here and lived here through no action of their own,” Murray said.
The students who would qualify for state aid under Murray’s plan are the so-called DREAM Act kids, who under a plan by the Obama Administration, have already been granted reprieve from deportation, a sort of temporary resident status for those brought to this country as children.
Undocumented immigrant students in Washington state already qualify for in-state tuition, although a bill in the Legislature would repeal that benefit and deny any financial aid.