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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington House Re-Passes College Aid For Immigrant Students

Washington Legislature
Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos (left) and Rep. Larry Haler.

It wasn’t all pomp and circumstance on Monday. The opening day of the Washington Legislature included something rare for day one: a floor vote.

The Washington House voted to give college grant money to low-income high school graduates who are in the country illegally.

Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos, a Democrat, spoke in support of the so-called DREAM Act.

“This is a bill about our future," she said. "It is a bill that we cannot afford to delay enactment on.”

But Republican Larry Haler says it doesn’t make financial sense to expand eligibility for Washington’s Need Grant program. He points out that in 2011, more than 30,000 already qualified students receive no help from this program because of a shortage of funds.

“I will be asking for a ‘no vote’ on this because the statistics, unfortunately, trump the dream at this time,” said Haler.

The Democratically-controlled Washington House passed the DREAM Act last year, but it died in the mostly Republican Senate. It’s unclear whether the measure has a better chance this year.