Opinion

Let's keep Cristina's dream alive | Gregerson

Cristina Martinez Montano has a dream.

It's a simple dream, really: After she graduates from Kent-Meridian High School this spring, she wants to go to college, and study hard to learn the skills she needs to contribute to her family, her community, her state.

But her dream might not come true, because when Cristina was 5 years old, her parents brought her to our state from Mexico – and they were undocumented immigrants. Under today's regulations, undocumented schoolchildren like Cristina are not eligible for state financial aid to attend public colleges in Washington.

For Cristina, no state aid would be a deal-breaker. And she's not alone: Instead of teaching school, or writing computer code, or designing aircraft, the Cristinas of our state might end up cleaning houses or taking orders for burgers and fries without the help they need to pay tuition.

And that means these students are not the only victims of this misguided policy: We all are – all of us who will lose out on the contributions that Cristina and other smart, high-achieving undocumented kids like her could make to our economy and society. That loss will be especially keen in South King County, which has welcomed large numbers of immigrants to its neighborhoods.

That's why I voted for the Dream Act in the state House of Representatives on Day 1 of the current legislative session, along with an overwhelming majority that included Democrats and Republicans alike. That strong bipartisan vote moved the Dream Act along to the state Senate for further action. If the senators want, they can approve the Dream Act and send it to Gov. Inslee, who will sign it into law and make all qualified students eligible for state aid, regardless of their immigration status.

It's not like Cristina did anything wrong: She was a little girl when her parents brought her to Washington, which is the only home she's ever really known. And it's not like the Dream Act would give an unfair advantage to undocumented students: They would have to compete with other high-school graduates for the financial aid grants, on a level playing field. As it is now, they don't even get to step on the field.

I urge the Senate to do right by Cristina and other ambitious, hard-working students eager to dream the American dream.

Mia Gregerson represents the 33rd Legislative District in the state House of Representatives. The district includes SeaTac, Des Moines, Normandy Park and parts of Kent, Burien, Renton and unincorporated King County. Contact her at 360-786-7868 or Mia.Gregerson@leg.wa.gov.

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