May 25, 2011
By Julia Toepfer
Update: The Illinois DREAM Act passed the House on May 30, 2011 and is currently awaiting Governor Quinn's signature. Congratulations to everyone who advocated for its passage.
Days after Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Harry Reid (D-NV), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) re-introduced the federal DREAM Act, Illinois is on the verge of passing its own version of the legislation. The Illinois DREAM Act, SB 2185, is up for a final vote in the House this week.
Despite the urgent need for the relief the federal bill would provide for hundreds of thousands of students across the country, its future in Congress is uncertain. In the meantime, Illinois joins numerous other states that have taken action to provide equal opportunity of education for immigrant students. Illinois is already one of the 11 states that offer in-state tuition to immigrant students. The growing coalition of states enacting policies to support immigrant students will likely help the federal bill gain momentum and shift the tense climate surrounding immigration.
An estimated 90,000 students in Illinois would benefit from the state’s DREAM Act should it pass in the Illinois House. While the bill cannot provide a path to legalization or other federal benefits that would ensure true equality for immigrant students in Illinois, it would greatly increase access to higher education and allow immigrant students in Illinois to contribute more fully to our society and economy.
"This is an American value issue …(immigrant youth) are our future," Sen. Tom Johnson, a Republican, reportedly told the state Senate chamber. The Illinois DREAM Act passed in the Senate with overwhelming and bipartisan support.
The passage of state DREAM Act bills recognizes that immigrant students are an asset to and the future of our communities. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a host of Illinois university presidents and chancellors, among other local leaders, have voiced their support for the Illinois DREAM legislation. Governor Quinn has committed to signing the bill upon its passage in the House.
The Illinois DREAM Act would:
- Ensure that high school counselors and college admissions officers give immigrant students correct information about the education options available to them
- Create college savings and prepaid tuition programs for families of all Illinois residents
- Establish a privately funded Illinois DREAM Fund (at no cost to taxpayers) that grants scholarships to undocumented students
- Establish the Illinois DREAM Commission to administer and fundraise for the DREAM Fund and research additional needs of DREAM students
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights has set up a petition in support of the state DREAM Act. Please take a moment to sign on and support equal access to higher education for immigrant youth.