The Washington State House passed the Senate version of the DREAM Act last Tuesday*, and it is heading to Governor Inslee’s desk for a final signature today at 2pm before it becomes law. The DREAM Act is a much needed piece of legislation that will help countless undocumented students, by providing them fair access to state need-grant money.
Nearly 12% of Washington State is Hispanic and over 250,000 people of that 12% were born outside of the country. Many of them were brought over as babies and toddlers by parents seeking to make a better life for them. And many would have graduated from Washington high schools every year with no real shot at a college education regardless of how hard they worked and how well they did in school. The financial barriers of rising tuition and textbook costs, not to mention living expenses, contradicted the widely held belief in our country that hard work and perseverance would get you ahead in life. The passage of the DREAM Act is a major step to remedying that. I hope that this news demonstrates to other states and national leaders that there is not only a need for reform and progress, but that it is also something people support.
While this an incredible step forward for Washington and the young people of the state looking to continue their education past high school, there is still so much more left to do! A first step should be to send a quick thank you email to the legislature (with the help from our friends at OneAmerica) for putting aside politics and sending the DREAM Act to the Governor’s desk. But the fight doesn’t stop there! The bus and other awesome organizations are still working on making Washington a better place by pushing for motor voter registration for 16 and 17 year olds, extending voter registration deadlines (it could boost voter turnout by 85,000+ votes every year!), and pulling out all the stops in support of the Washington State Voting Rights Act.
Washington is going in the right direction and I hope that it keeps up the pace!
*The WA State House of Representatives made history by passing their own version of the DREAM Act on 1/13/14, the first day of session. The version passed last Tuesday by the House was the State Senate’s version of the bill, called the “REAL Hope Act.”
This blog post is written by 2013 Bus Fellow and UW Alumnus (c/o ’13) Michael Padilla.
Define American founder Jose Antonio Vargas was in Seattle last night to give an amazing speech kicking off the Guiding Lights Weekend.
The Pulitzer Prize winning Filipino American journalist was born in the Philipines and moved to California to live with his grandmother at the age of 12. Unbeknownst to him, Vargas did not have the proper paperwork at the time required to “become” an American Citizen. He didn’t discover he was undocumented until he attempted to get a driver’s license at age 16.
“It was hard to think this flag I had been pledging allegiance to for four years didn’t belong to me,” Vargas told the audience.
Vargas worked with friends and trusted mentors to conceal his undocumented status and went on to graduate from San Francisco State University. As a dedicated journalist, he picked up jobs writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post and currently writes for the Huffington Post.
In June of last year, tired of hiding his identity, Jose came out as an undocumented immigrant living and working in the United States. He now lies in legal limbo, waiting for our country’s immigration policies to catch up to the realities of the 21st century.
“No human being Is illegal. It’s as simple as that,” Vargas told the crowd. “We’re attending law schools and medical schools. We’re cleaning houses and picking fruit.”
Vargas has been a leader in the ongoing debate on immigration reform. Currently 63% of undocumented immigrants have been living in the United States for more than 10 years. In 2007, undocumented workers paid $11.2 billion dollars into Social Security, $2.6 billion into Medicare, and a difficult to approximate but significant amount into local and state coffers through sales and property taxes. These same immigrants are unable to access many of the government benefits made available to citizens with proper paperwork.
“History is changing right in front of our eyes,” reported Vargas. “Nearly 50% of kids under the age of 30 are non-white. Every 30 seconds a Hispanic American turns 18. We are undergoing a cultural makeover like America has never seen.”
“We need white people to stand up,” said Vargas, the emotion audible in his voice. “If you’ve stayed silent about this issue you have to speak up. Lives are on the line. America is on the line.”
“What if all of us here had to earn citizenship? Can you imagine what it’d be like?”
This blog post was written by Devin Glaser, longtime friend and volunteer of the Bus