Undocumented students could soon be eligible for college loans

By Leona Vaughn   |   WNPA News Service

  • Undocumented and DACA students are currently not eligible to receive federal student loans. 
  • Senate bill 6561 creates a program for them to receive financial support in pursuing higher education.

Students who are undocumented immigrants may soon find it easier to finance their higher education with a proposal working its way through the state legislature.

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 opportunities,” said Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, 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, and I don’t know anything else,” said Alondra Munoz, a student and representative of Undocumented Initiatives, at an earlier hearing. 

“Being that I am undocumented and without DACA, 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 state residents. 

According to the American Immigration Council, almost 20,000 Washington state residents applied for DACA in 2016. DACA applicants must have been in the U.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.”

“Every time we do something like this, it’s like a finger in the dike,” said Sen. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney, in opposition to the bill at an earlier debate. “We pick another small part, or another part that has problems with access to this, or another group that might be disenfranchised. Every time you do this, you move the window of unavailability to higher education.” 

SB 6561 was passed by the Senate Tuesday, Feb. 18 and is currently being heard in the House. If passed, it will be effective starting July 1, 2021.

Mario Lotmore

Mario Lotmore is originally from The Bahamas and for the last seven years has called Mukilteo, WA his home. Having lived in every region of the United States has exposed him to various cultures, people, and approaches to life. Lotmore created the Lynnwood Times to represent the character of a diverse and growing Lynnwood. The launching of the city’s free community newspaper will only help bring neighborhoods together. Lotmore was an industrial engineer by trade and proven success implementing and managing lean accountable processes and policies within his eighteen years of operations excellence, strategic development, and project management in the aerospace, manufacturing, and banking industries. Over his career he has saved and created hundreds of union and non-union jobs. Lotmore is the President of a Homeowner Association, an active Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics volunteer in his community, and former Boeing 747 Diversity Council leader. Mario’s talent is finding “that recipe” of shared destiny to effectively improve the quality of life for others.

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