Immigration Reform Back on the Table
After many years, immigration reform seems to be back on the table: both President Obama and Congress have indicated that they intend to take on immigration reform this year. A bipartisan group of senators released their draft of an immigration bill, which focuses on increasing border security, giving DREAMers (children brought to the United States illegally at a young age) and agricultural workers a faster path for citizenship, and fixing the administrative processes that make getting visas cumbersome. President Obama released a similar plan, and last summer issued an executive order giving DREAMers temporary relief from deportation.
In Washington State, two bills have been proposed to reform Washington’s policies toward undocumented students. Washington’s undocumented student population has increased in recent years, as undocumented workers form a large part of the state’s agricultural industry. Currently, undocumented students in Washington are eligible for in-state tuition as long as they graduate from a Washington high school and have lived in the state for two years. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, however, have introduced competing bills concerning undocumented students who want to pursue higher education at Washington’s public colleges and universities. Don Benton, a Republican from Vancouver, introduced SB 5087, which would prevent undocumented students from qualifying for resident undergraduate tuition, even if they graduated from a Washington State high school and have lived in the state for many years. SB 5655, introduced by Ed Murray, D-Seattle, takes a different approach, making undocumented students eligible not only for resident tuition, but also for the State Need Grant and the College Bound Scholarship. Neither bill has yet been scheduled for a hearing. The first legislative cutoff date is February 22nd, after which all bills that have not been scheduled for a hearing are unlikely to progress.
To read more about the President and Congress’ plans for immigration reform, check out Crosscut’s analysis here and here.