Washington state students who are in the country illegally have reason to celebrate. On Wednesday, Governor Jay Inslee signed into law the state’s Real Hope Act, also commonly called the DREAM Act.
Under the measure, undocumented students will become eligible for state-funded college financial aid. Only four other states have passed similar laws.
University of Washington freshman Diana Betancourt of La Paz, Mexico, stands to benefit from this new law. She said her parents decided to move her and her sisters to the U.S. after the family spent six months homeless in Mexico. Betancourt was five years old at the time.
Betancourt traveled to Olympia for the bill signing and told KUOW what the bill's passage means to her:
I think just any financial assistance is a huge, huge, huge contribution.
I’m definitely in the red zone for next quarter, so I’ll have to figure out how to pay for that. Just knowing that I’ll have some financial assistance puts some weight off my shoulders and just makes it a little easier to focus more on schooling and not just how I’m going to be able to pay for it.
It’s been really, really, really, extremely tough. I saw my sisters not be able to go to college. So, I was like, "If they can’t go then I probably won’t be able to go."
Then I met other people who went to the University of Washington. I was like, “You know what, I can do it.” And I put all my heart and soul into school. It makes me really appreciate just even the littlest things, like walking through campus. I think, "Wow, I’m here."
Being here, I consider myself an American. But it’s like, how can you consider yourself an American when you’re being rejected throughout your life?
And then just seeing the DREAM Act — I feel like every single time something passes, I feel more at home and I feel more accepted. It’s really nice.
Money comes and goes. One way or another, if I have to get five jobs, I’ll figure out how to pay for it. But just feeling accepted in this country where I’ve lived practically all my life, I think that’s the thing — even though it doesn’t seem like it — that’s what every undocumented student looks for and hopes for.
This is what parents brought me here for: to get an education, to be independent, and to pursue my dreams.