Governor signs state Dream Act


By Wilson Criscione, News Writer

On Feb. 26, Gov. Jay Inslee signed Washington state’s version of the Dream Act, which will allow undocumented immigrants to receive the state need grants they need to pay for college.

Six EWU students traveled to Olympia, Wash., to be present for the signing of the bill, celebrating the hard work many of them have done to bring the bill to Inslee’s desk.

“It’s an incredible day,” said ASEWU Vice President Francisco Navarro.

The bill will make it possible for undocumented students to apply for financial aid, as long as the student has received the equivalent of a high school diploma in Washington. The bill also requires the person to have lived in Washington for at least three years immediately before receiving the diploma.

This means that undocumented students, like Navarro, will no longer have to rely solely on scholarships to fund their education.

The bill’s enactment came only a month and a half after state Reps. Marcus Riccelli and Zack Hudgins led a rally in support of the Dream Act on the front steps of the PUB.

Many students, including Navarro and Elena Calderon, another undocumented Eastern student now getting her master’s degree in public health, have been advocating this bill for years.

He has traveled to Olympia with other students for the past five years, pleading lawmakers to allow those like him to receive state-based financial aid.

After being born in Mexico, Navarro came to the U.S. when he was 15 years old. He immediately started working in the fields as a high school sophomore, picking apples, pears and pumpkins.

He earned a 3.7 GPA in high school at Sunnyside, Wash., and chose to go to EWU because of the scholarships available to him. But he quickly learned that the $6,000 awarded to him would not be enough.

“Pretty quickly, I found myself in trouble, trying to figure out how I was going to pay for school,” Navarro said. “I was always in debt.”

As a computer science major, he did everything he could to scrape together enough money to stay in school. He would fix computers for students and faculty members, and on weekends he went back to the fields.

After having to drop out of school multiple times so he could save up enough money to continue his education, he decided to look for other scholarships. He said he researched at least 30-40 scholarships that could help him through school.

He got a call from Microsoft while he was working in the field, and they offered him a scholarship. Soon after, Google also offered him a scholarship of $10,000. He was able to continue his education at Eastern Washington, and this time around, he wanted to give back to the school.

“I decided that it was time for me to contribute in a greater way to the Eastern community, so that’s why I decided to run for office,” Navarro said. “I always believed in helping students.”

Now, as ASEWU vice president, he is happy to see that students, like himself,can receive the same financial aid benefits as their peers.

“Not only are they going to benefit from the opportunity of going to college, but the state is going to benefit from it,” Navarro said. “That means a lot more revenue from the state in taxes. It means educated citizens.”

Calderon said she has been fighting for this bill since she was a freshman undergraduate. She said she could not believe it when she heard it was finally passed.

“It’s so surreal,” Calderon said. “It’s amazing our state is being so supportive of us.”

Calderon moved to Mattawa, Wash. when she was three years old and grew up picking cherries and cutting asparagus before going to EWU. She is looking forward to immigrants who grew up in the state, like herself, to be offered a greater opportunity at higher education.

Navarro says the bill will prevent many students from dropping out, like he was forced to.

“Children who were brought here at a very young age, through no fault of their own, they were brought here through the circumstances of their parents,” Navarro said. “They deserve an opportunity to go to college.”