“Regardless of the past actions that led to undocumented students arriving in our state, we have the opportunity to affect their future and ours. Our state has the ability to change the outcome of their stories and give them the tools they need.”
That statement, urging support for legislation in Olympia to allow undocumented immigrant students access to state financial aid, could easily have been lifted from the brochure of some immigrant advocacy group.
Instead it was included in a recent op-ed piece in the Yakima Herald by two Republican lawmakers from Eastern Washington – Reps. Bruce Chandler and Charles Ross.
True, Republican support for immigration isn’t new or even all that surprising, particularly in this state and in light of the results of the November elections. But the evolution of House Bill 1817 is still worthy of note.
A year ago, the same bill didn’t get a single hearing.
Last month, more than 100 people who signed up to testify on it in two House committees and not a single voice was raised in opposition.
A total of eight Republicans – many, though not all, from the state’s immigrant-dependent farming areas – voted in favor of the bill. Chandler and Ross are included among the bill’s 32 sponsors.
And there is other evidence of Republican support on immigration.
On Tuesday, more than 40 groups announced formation of a compact to push for immigration policy changes in Congress.
Included among supporters are former Republican Congressman Sid Morrison, Dale Foreman, a former state lawmaker, former chairman of the state Republican Party and one-time Republican candidate for governor. Former state Republican Party chairman Chris Vance is one of the group’s spokespeople.
Of course, House Bill 1718 is far from a fait accompli.
While supporters say they feel confident it could survive the upcoming floor vote in the House, the Senate, controlled by a Republican-led caucus, could be another story entirely.