Seattle PI: State Senate breaches blockade of Washington Dream Act

The long-blocked Washington Dream Act, which would allow state financial aid to college-bound sons and daughters of undocumented immigrants, appears headed for passage by the state Senate as early as Friday.

A breakthrough was announced by Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, who last year blocked a vote and said recently that the Dream Act was “not a priority.”

It came on the same day that Republican rulers in the U.S. House of Representatives announced they will move ahead with legislation that would allow undocumented residents to remain legally in the United States.

Whatever the reasons and motives behind it, the Bailey breakthrough set off celebration in Olympia.

The legislation, assuming it reaches his desk for signature, will help educate “the next generation of innovators, builders and entrepreneurs who will strengthen and grow Washington’s economy,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement.

“After three years of Democrats being blocked from bringing the Dream Act to the floor for a vote — while we had enough votes for the bill to pass — the Dream Act will now be allowed to come to the floor for a vote as early as tomorrow,” Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas, wrote on his Facebook page.

“This will do so much to allow access to education for so many,” he added. “This is a good day.”

In a challenge for the Senate to get moving, the state House of Representatives passed the Dream Act by a bipartisan 71-23 vote on the first day of this year’s session.

The legislation has enjoyed bipartisan sponsorship in the state. A top Republican sponsor, Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, argued: “Students not born in the U.S. but raised in Washington are Washingtonians. They deserve equitable access to education.”

The Republican-dominated Senate Majority Coalition busily tweeted pictures of a press conference at which Bailey announced that the Dream Act would move through the Senate, along with effusive copy: “Students are real role models in our community. Thank you, Sen. Bailey.”

But much of the credit must go to the students and Hispanic groups, and business supporters, who kept the Dream Act front and center.

“It’s not through a change of heart that the Republican-led Senate is moving this bill — their hearts did not grow three times in size — it was because of the constant pressure applied by residents of our state . . .,” said Patrick Stickney, a Western Washington University senior who lobbied the legislation.

OneAmerica.org, a group that has campaigned for immigrant rights, offered a statement by Ed Yanez, an 18-year-old honor student who has put his education on hold because of the cost of college. “I hope to attend the UW and eventually go to medical school and study primary care,” Yanez said. [...]

Read the entire January 30, 2014 news by Joel Connelly

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