By Leona Vaughn
WNPA News Service
Students who are undocumented immigrants may soon find it easier to finance their higher education.
Senate Bill 6561, now under consideration in the House, establishes a student loan program for undocumented immigrants, including DACA recipients, who are not currently eligible to receive federal financial aid.
“We know that our undocumented students want to pursue the same opportunites,” said Sen. Marko Liias, the bill’s primary sponsor. “One big barrier that still exists is a lack of access to student loans,” he said.
Several students who testified in support of the bill expressed the stress they’ve experienced trying to pay for their education.
“I am undocumented and I do not have DACA. I arrived at this country when I was three months old, so this country’s all I know,” said Alondra Munoz, a student and representative of Undocumented Inititatives, at an earlier hearing. “I can’t get work study, so being able to get these loans will honestly help a lot,” Munoz said.
Though DACA recipients are still able to renew their status, the potential ending of the program is concerning to many Washington residents.
According to the American Immigration Council, almost 20,000 Washington residents applied for DACA in 2016. DACA applicants must have been in the United s before turning 16 and continuously present in the country since June 15, 2007, according to the National Immigration Law Center.
“I don’t know where to turn to,” said Litzy Canales, a high school senior at Edmonds Woodway High School. “This is where this program would step in and help me start my career.”
SB 6561 was passed by the Senate on Feb. 18 and is currently being heard in the House. If passed, it will be effective starting July 1, 2021.