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SALEM — State grants could go to college students who were brought to the United States as children but lack immigration papers under a bill that cleared the Oregon Senate on Thursday.


The 17-11 vote, largely along party lines, moved Senate Bill 932 to the House.

Sen. Michael Dembrow, a Democrat from Portland and the bill’s chief sponsor, said that based on estimates, a maximum of 1,000 such students would be eligible for Oregon Opportunity Grants — and that 350 of them were likely to get them.

Given that lawmakers have boosted funds in the next two-year budget cycle to make grants available to 13,000 more students, Dembrow said the 350 would be a small share.

“They are exactly the kind of kids we should be investing in,” Dembrow said. “Most of these kids have lived here all of these years and they deserve a shot.”

But Dembrow, a community college instructor, acknowledged that his sponsorship of the bill is a shift from two years ago, when as chairman of a House committee, he was floor manager of the bill that allowed in-state tuition rates for undocumented students.

Dembrow said then that the 2013 bill, which became law, did not open the way for state aid to these students — unlike SB 932.

Jim Ludwick of McMinnville, spokesman and former president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform, made a pointed comment about Dembrow’s 2013 remarks in written testimony filed for a June 15 budget subcommittee hearing.

“I remember nudging the person next to me and saying wait two years,” Ludwick wrote. “Here we are just two years later and the same advocates now want to do just that.”

Some of the potentially eligible students testified at a March 24 hearing of the Senate Education Committee. The 2013 legislation required such students to apply to state universities three years after high school graduation, and to complete their degree within five years. Dembrow said his current bill removes those requirements.

Democrat Betsy Johnson of Scappoose joined 10 Republicans in opposition; two Republicans were absent.

Oregon is among 18 states with some form of in-state tuition rates for undocumented students, who do not qualify for federal aid. If the House passes SB 932, Oregon would join California, Washington and some other states that allow state aid.

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