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Washington state lawmakers pass financial aid bill for undocumented immigrants

Washington state legislators on Tuesday approved a bill to make college students who were brought to the US illegally by their parents eligible for need-based college financial aid. The legislation, called the Real Hope Act [text, PDF], was passed in the state's House of Representatives by 75 to 22 votes with strong bipartisan support after nearly six years of campaigning. The new legislation includes $5 million in additional State Need Grant funding to help cover the approximately 1,000 undocumented immigrant students in Washington. The bill has been sent to Governor Jay Islee [official website], who has promised [statement] to sign it into law: "This is a landmark achievement for the 2014 session," said the Governor in a statement. I appreciate the hard work of the legislators and students who have been working on this for so long and who helped pass this bill. I look forward to signing this bill and celebrating a big step forward for thousands of young Washingtonians."

Immigration laws [JURIST backgrounder] have became a hot button issue over the past few years when many states, Arizona being the first, passed laws giving their state and local officials more power to crack down on illegal immigration. In December New Jersey Governor Chris Christie [official website] signed a bill [JURIST report] that will allow undocumented students to be eligible for in-state tuition rates to attend state colleges. In April Oregon's governor signed a bill [JURIST report] allowing undocumented immigrants to attend public universities at the same tuition rate as in-state residents. In March a judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia permanently blocked [JURIST report] a key provision in Georgia's immigration law that criminalized knowingly transporting or harboring an undocumented immigrant during the course of any other crime. Last year Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange asked [JURIST report] the US Supreme Court to overturn a recent decision striking down provisions of Alabama's controversial immigration law [HB 56, PDF]. In December 2012, Thrash lifted a preliminary injunction [JURIST report] blocking part of a Georgia immigration law that allows law enforcement officers to ask about immigration status when questioning suspects in criminal investigations. Thrash's order was in line with an August ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which upheld [JURIST report] that provision of the law, but it remains to be seen how police will enforce the provision.

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