Stalled immigrant bill could impact Washington elections
SEATTLE — The state House’s swift move to advance an immigrants’ rights bill on the first day of this year’s legislative session could create a wedge issue that might affect the results of the November elections, some political experts said.Lawmakers in the House on Monday approved with strong bipartisan support a proposal that expands state financial aid for college students in the country without legal status. The measure, however, is likely going nowhere in the Senate because Majority Leader Rodney Tom, the Democrat leading the predominantly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus, said his caucus has other priorities to focus on during the 60-day session.“I’m looking for more dollars for state need grants, but not expanding the pool (of eligible student applicants) at this time,” said Sen. Barbara Bailey, Republican chairwoman of the Senate education committee.Spokespeople for Republicans in the House and Senate said their caucuses don’t have immigration-related bills they are putting forward this year.Inaction this session on bills important to immigrants and minorities, such as the so-called Washington Dream Act, could become an election issue in November, when 24 spots in the Senate are contested. Ten of those Senate seats are expected to be challenged vigorously by both parties. Roughly half a dozen of those seats are in suburbs in the greater Puget Sound area, including Tom’s.“It’s an issue that can dramatically affect the swing races in suburban districts,” said Chris Vance, a Republican political consultant who has worked with immigrant-rights groups, like OneAmerica.