Illinois poised to enact state DREAM Act

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Illinois lawmakers passed a bipartisan bill May 30 that would assist immigrant youth throughout the state in paying for college. The measure, SB 2185, known as the Illinois DREAM Act, passed the Illinois House with a 61-53 vote. It passed the State Senate earlier this month and now heads to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's desk, where he is expected to sign the bill into law later this week.

"I believe everyone has the right to a first-class education, and the Illinois DREAM Act strengthens Illinois' commitment to ensuring education for all," Quinn said in a statement released by his office. "The legislation allows private funding to be used to help students pay for higher education and to train high school counselors to assist undocumented children [to] forward their educational careers. This legislation will support our next generation of scholars, business leaders and innovators, and I look forward to signing it."

The measure would establish a privately funded Illinois DREAM fund, administered by a volunteer staff commission, to make scholarships available to children of immigrants who graduate from state high schools. It will also train high school counselors and college admissions officers to be fully informed about educational resources and opportunities for immigrant students. The bill would also allow families to participate in the state's two college tuition savings programs.

The measure will not impose any cost on Illinois taxpayers and could benefit as many as 95,000 immigrant youth.

Lawrence Benito, deputy director with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said the bipartisan vote was "truly historic." In a statement on the group's website, Benito added, "This vote is a victory for our state and an important step forward in recognizing the contributions of immigrants." Illinois is poised to become the first state to create a private scholarship fund for children of undocumented Latinos, he said.

The bill, the coalition said, shows Illinois "is not only an immigrant-friendly state but also a national leader on moving fair, humane and practical solutions forward."

With the growing political power of immigrant communities and the recent Census showing an increase of Asian and Latinos in the suburbs, the issues affecting these communities are being taken seriously by elected officials, says the coalition. "This vote is very important for Latinos, immigrants and their supporters, who will remember this vote in 2012."

The Illinois Latino voting bloc grew by nearly 500,000 people since the 2000 Census.

The measure was endorsed by U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cardinal Francis George, 15 university presidents and hundreds of faith and business leaders and community organizations.

The legislation was especially welcomed by Cindy, 22, an undocumented senior at the University of Chicago and leader with the Chicago-based Immigrant Youth Justice League.

In a video on the league's website, Cindy said she came to the U.S. with her parents when she was three-years-old.

"My parents made the choice to come to the U.S. in hopes to provide me and my sister a better life, she said. "Growing up, my parents always stressed the importance of an education. I grew up with the idea that one day I would attend college, graduate and have a career. I am less than a month away from my college graduation and becoming the first person in my family ... graduating college and fulfilling my parents dream."

Cindy continued, "But my future is uncertain because I cannot be employed after graduation and attending graduate school will be difficult financially."

However, she said, "The Illinois DREAM Act is important for my community, my friends and the thousands of undocumented youth who live in Illinois that want to create an educated immigrant community ready to give back to the U.S."

The bill gets its name from a federal piece of legislation also known as the DREAM Act, which almost passed Congress last winter. That measure was re-introduced recently by Democrats in the U.S. Senate. It would allow millions of undocumented students higher education opportunities, including a path to citizenship if they attend college or join the military.

Since only federal legislation can change immigration law, the Illinois version cannot include a path to citizenship for undocumented youth, but activists say it's a move other state's could follow in countering some of the anti-immigrant measures being proposed.

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  • Referring back to whoever posted that this act is bias, i disagree, what you are not understanding it's the fact that immigrant students are being held back in their education, because when they go to college, they have to pay a higher tuition price just for the fact of not being a citizen. Also, it is very hard for immigrants to find a decent paying job because of their status, by passing this act and helping the immigrant students receive financial aid, immigrant students will be able to have less stress on them & contribute better to the nation. It is education that is being supported not a certain race. This act means equal education for everybody.

    Posted by abi, 09/07/2011 6:29pm (3 years ago)

  • This is a good thing but how the hell are students going to transport back and forth if they cannot obtain a drivers license... its also a big problem

    Posted by , 08/17/2011 9:00pm (3 years ago)

  • Why give free money to one certain population. I think all children in Illinois and the US have the right and the "dream" of a higher education. Just because you grew up in the US shouldnt mean that you have to pay out of pocket for all of your education. College is expensive for everyone, not just certain populaitons. We all deserve equal opputunites. This law is bias and unfair. These scholarships should be open to every nationality.

    Posted by , 06/06/2011 2:29pm (3 years ago)

  • So what are graduates gonna do after the finish school, be unemployed since they dont have a social security number???...just wondering

    Posted by N/a, 06/01/2011 12:39am (3 years ago)

  • Wow ... soooooo great news ....my cousin Justyna can come back and graduate from her art school here ... she is very talented artist .
    Thank you for letting big dreams go true to many young people who want to study very hard .

    Posted by Maryla Hawekotte, 05/31/2011 6:37pm (3 years ago)

  • so this bill does not give the right for undocumented students to receive a drivers license?

    Posted by diana shlop, 05/31/2011 6:37pm (3 years ago)

  • Finally! I can't wait until all the other states follow in Illinois' footsteps

    Posted by lisa, 05/31/2011 6:35pm (3 years ago)

  • so whats this going to do to kids that are not legal here i dont get it?

    Posted by Jorge, 05/31/2011 6:20pm (3 years ago)

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