Inslee signs immigrant financial aid bill

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee has signed into law a measure that expands state college financial aid to students in the country without legal status.

In a highly divided Legislature, passage of the bill represents a big win for immigrant advocates. It’s also the first bill to become law this session.

Everett Community College student Irvin Enriquez stood behind Inslee as the governor signed the bill.

“For me, this will lighten the burden off my family,” said the 25-year-old Everett resident who intends to transfer to the University of Washington. “If not for me, it will be for my brother who is going to college next year.”

Enriquez said his family arrived from Mexico City when he was 10 years old and today they own a tire business in the city. He’s spent the past two years traveling to Olympia to lobby lawmakers to pass the bill.

“I’ve been really adamant about it because this issue touched close to home,” he said. “Even though I might not get it, I know a lot of people who need it.”

The Senate and House versions of the bill were almost identical but had different names.

The House version didn’t identify a funding source, but the Senate proposal allocates $5 million through June 30, 2015, from the general fund to pay for the financial aid payments under the state need-grant program.

The bill requires students to have received a high school diploma or equivalent in Washington state and to have lived in the state for at least three years before getting aid.

Herald Writer Jerry Cornfield contributed to this report.

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