DACA students keep financial aid

By Chloe Wilhelm - Staff Reporter



OLYMPIA -- Undocumented students in Washington would not lose their financial aid eligibility if the DACA program is eliminated by the federal government, according to a new bill in the Legislature.

House Bill 1488, also known as the Washington Dream Act 2.0, would make sure these students remain eligible for financial aid, which includes programs such as the College Bound Scholarship.

DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an immigration program that was introduced by the Obama Administration in 2012.

For immigrants who came to the United States when they were minors, the program allows a renewable two-year period of deferred action and work permit eligibility.

Currently, the program supports approximately 800,000 people, known as Dreamers.

Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, introduced the bill during a press conference in here last week.

"There are students in Washington who are eligible for financial aid or resident student status for in-state tuition because of DACA," said Rep. Hansen. "If DACA goes away, then those students will not be eligible anymore."

Rep. Hansen said the goal is to make sure that students will still receive financial aid, regardless of what the Trump administration does with DACA in the future.

Joining Rep. Hansen at the press conference was Michael Schutzler, the CEO of the Washington Technology Industry Association. He discussed how the bill relates to the technology industry in Washington.

Schutzler said 70 percent of the venture capital companies in the United States were formed by immigrants. They create jobs for Americans, he said.

"Dreamers want to serve this country because it's the only home they've ever known," he said. "We should do all we can to help them succeed."

Daniella Murguia, an undocumented student attending University of Washington-Bothell, also discussed the importance of the bill. Not only would it help her pay for college tuition, but it would also help her younger sister, she said.

"My younger sister signed the pledge for [the] College Bound Scholarship, however she cannot access [it] for the same reason: her status as undocumented and not having DACA," she said. "We all deserve access to higher education."

She said that a lack of financial aid has led to many personal challenges, particularly for her older sister.

"My older sister is the one who has had the toughest experience with aid for college, where she couldn't access money for several years," Murguia said.

She explained that her sister almost had to drop out of the University of Washington-Seattle due to lack of aid.

Graciela Nuñez, a recent graduate of the University of Washington-Seattle and a DACA recipient, stressed the importance of receiving financial aid, as well as the consequences of eliminating DACA.

"As an American, it's difficult to think of my presence as a temporary and scrutinized commodity," she said. "This is a step in the right direction."

At the press conference, she urged attendees to remember that the work being done to support undocumented students does not end in Legislature.

"I do want to urge everyone in this room that the battle does not end here," she said. "It extends outside the Legislature and extends into our country to echo the words from the elected officials."

A version of the bill passed the State House Appropriations Committee in 2017 before being re-introduced in the current legislative session.

The current bill had a hearing last week in the Higher Education Committee, and was scheduled for a committee vote on Wednesday.

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