Peninsula activist, legislators, superintendent hail bill on immigrant financial aid

By Jeremy Schwartz and Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

FORKS –– A local immigration-rights activist and an education leader hailed the state Senate’s move to allow children of unauthorized immigrants to receive financial aid for college.

“It’s a good thing. There’s a lot of people that are going to be very grateful for that,” said Manuela Velasquez, a Forks preschool teacher and advocate for migrant workers on the West End.

“This is very good for our children.”

Quillayute Valley School District Superintendent Diane Reaume said the bill would be good for many children from the West End, though she noted school officials are not allowed to ask students or their families about their citizenship.

“Anything that will help more kids go to college and advance is a good thing,” Reaume said Friday.

Hargrove voted yes

State Sen. Jim Hargrove, a Hoquiam Democrat who serves the North Olympic Peninsula in the Senate, voted in favor of Senate Bill 6523.

He said one of the reasons for his support was to help college-age students who are technically in the country illegally but have grown up in the state a chance for a higher education.

“It gives these kids that have lived in the state their entire lives a hope and a future,” Hargrove said.

“It just seems to be the fair thing to do.”

Hargrove, along with state Reps. Steve Tharinger and Kevin Van De Wege, both Sequim Democrats, represents the 24th Legislative District, which comprises Clallam and Jefferson counties and a portion of Grays Harbor County.

“We certainly have youth in our district that would fit this category that would be able to get state need grants,” Hargrove said.

Tharinger and Van De Wege both voted for the House’s version of the legislation in a 71-23 vote on the first day of this year’s legislative session.

The bill passed 35-10 in the Senate, a level of bipartisan support Hargrove attributed to the inclusion of $5 million more for the State Need Grant program.

These funds would help ensure there would be enough grant money for students made newly eligible if the bill becomes law, Hargrove explained.

“I think the final thing that swung the number of votes over was adding the money,” Hargrove said.

The Senate bill now goes to the House.

________

Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.



Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 01. 2014 4:32PM
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