Two years before the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, Washington legislators passed a law that allowed undocumented students in the United States to apply for financial aid. But now that the Trump administration has ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the program's fix faces an uncertain future, Washington State legislators have reintroduced a bill to keep financial aid alive for DACA recipients even if the federal program is repealed.
House Bill 1488, or the "Washington Dream Act" was first introduced last year, but died without making it out of committee. (As with so many pieces of legislation, Democratic representatives balked at the prospect of sending the bill to a Republican-dominated state senate.) But this week, Rep. Drew Hansen (D-Bainbridge Island) reintroduced the bill, and this year, it has a different calculus: Senate Democrats now have the majority. A parallel bill in the state senate has also been introduced by Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle).
"We can't guard against everything the Trump administration might do in relation to undocumented students, but we can protect them from losing their financial aid and help them stay in college, and God knows that's something worth doing," Hansen said.
The bill basically has three measures of protection if the federal DACA program is repealed for good: The first allows DACA students to remain part of the state's College Bound program, a project that pays a students' tuition if he or she keeps a promise made in the 7th grade to get good grades and stay out of trouble with the law; the second part allows DACA students to keep their eligibility for in-state tuition; and the third is a host of other changes that allow Washington residents here on items like a T-visa (a human trafficking visa) eligibility for in-state tuition, too.
Hansen hopes that this year's bill stands a stronger chance at bipartisan support because of endorsements from the business community. Both the Seattle Chamber of Commerce and the Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) have spoken in support of the bill, but we'll find out how much those endorsements mean in the coming months—and hopefully before DACA benefits start to expire in March.