Democratic Governor Jay Inslee is expected on Wednesday to sign
legislation that provides grants to students whose families meet
income and residency guidelines. California, Illinois, Texas and New
Mexico have passed similar measures.
"This bill ensures that the young men and women we've invested in at
our high schools and who aspire to become productive American
citizens will now have fair access to the financial support they
need," Inslee said in a statement following the bill's passage last
Passage of the measure, dubbed the Dream Act of Washington state,
marks a victory for immigrant-rights advocates and a shift within
the state Republican party, whose members blocked a similar measure
Just last month, Republicans signaled they would not pass the bill
but in a sudden turnabout introduced their own version of the bill
in the Republican-dominated state Senate with $5 million to help
fund the imitative.
Lawmakers estimate that 800 to 1,200 students might be eligible for
aid under the new law.
However, students in the country illegally still face an uncertain
future after graduation.
A bill that would have provided a path to citizenship for the
approximately 11 million immigrants living in the United States
illegally stalled in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of
An influx of Hispanics to Washington state has caused some
Republicans to change their stance on helping immigrants who came to
the country illegally as children, said David Nice, a political
science professor at Washington State University.
"Republicans are influenced by the continued growth of the Hispanic
population, particularly in Republican areas of the state," Nice
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Hispanics made up 11.2 percent of its population in 2010, up from
4.4 percent in 1990, according to U.S. Census figures.
Other analysts attribute the Republican shift to lobbying efforts
that featured moving stories of how this financial aid would allow
immigrants to go to college and secure a future.
"There aren't many (Washington state) Republicans who have to worry
about a competing Latino vote right now," said Luis Fraga, a
University of Washington political science professor. "It's more
likely that their consciences were tapped by the humanity of the
stories that they heard from the students."
The newly eligible immigrants will face a higher standard to qualify
for aid than legal residents, said Jim West, a residency specialist
at the Washington Student Achievement Council, which administers the
While U.S. citizens must live in the state one year before
qualifying, undocumented students will need to have attended at
least three years of high school in the state and have earned a high
school diploma or equivalent in the state.
In all cases, a qualifying student's family income must be below
$57,500, or 70 percent of the state's median family income.
Washington state has granted in-state tuition to otherwise qualified
undocumented immigrants since 2003.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)
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