Bill: Give undocumented students access to grants

Some lawmakers have already come forward saying they don't like the plan

Navil Babonayaba, 16, center, a student at Yuma High School participates in her civics class. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Navil Babonayaba, 16, center, a student at Yuma High School participates in her civics class. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Some Oregon lawmakers are working to give undocumented students access to state-funded education grants. It’s a controversial plan that has some wondering if it’s fair to students who are citizens and may soon have more competition for this money.

“I knew that for some of my colleagues this would be a step too far,” Senator Michael Dembrow told KOIN 6 News. “It was worth the push.”

Math is taught to high school students during a class at the Karnes County Residential Center, a temporary home for immigrant women and children detained at the border. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Math is taught to high school students during a class at the Karnes County Residential Center, a temporary home for immigrant women and children detained at the border. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Senator Dembrow is trying to provide children of illegal immigrants with state-funded education grants. Senate Bill 932 would open up Oregon Opportunity Grants to Oregon high school graduates who were brought to the U.S. as children, but don’t have immigration papers.

Some lawmakers have already come forward saying they don’t like the plan.

“This incentivizes the wrong behavior,” Rep. Mike Nearman said.

Senator Dembrow, who works as a community college instructor, said he knows some of these students and has heard their stories.

“I simply could not afford being able to go to a university or 4 years,” a college student said at a public hearing.

They are stories that were repeated when the bill was introduced.

“I panicked the moment I realized all my plans for paying for college with need-based financial aid, scholarships and student loans would be eliminated from my list of resources,” a high school student said during the hearing.

“I’m sympathetic to that, but we have to manage our incentives,” Nearman said.

But critics say there is limited money, and the new plan isn’t fair to students who are citizens.

However, Dembrow said he feels differently.

“First of all, remember these students have grown up in Oregon, graduated from an Oregon high school,” he said. “We don’t think it will be a significant burden on the large population, but will do huge things for those students that qualify.”

KOIN 6 News learned the state is also increasing the amount of money they put into the grant program.

Still, critics point to a larger issue.

“This is kind of heading in the wrong direction,” Nearman said. “We have a problem and it’s a federal problem with immigration and we need to not incentivize more people to come to this nation illegally.”

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