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The Mechanics
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Immigration Mon Aug 01 2011

A Look Behind: The Illinois DREAM Act

Governor Quinn signed the Illinois DREAM Act into law today, creating a privately-financed fund that will offer college scholarships to undocumented immigrant students. Even though the measure doesn't affect their immigration status, it aims to provide thousands of students who don't qualify for other forms of assistance with the means to afford college tuition. This measure is the latest victory in a decade-long effort by immigrations groups to assist young people who were brought into the U.S. as minors and grew up in the country as undocumented immigrants.

Bipartisan Approval for Scholarship Funds

The Dream Act first passed the Illinois House back in December and passed the Senate in May with vast bipartisan support. The measure's main provisions allow anyone with a taxpayer identification number, including undocumented students, to utilize the State Treasurer's College Savings Pool and the Illinois Prepaid Tuition Plan. Access to these programs is meant to help the families of undocumented students save for college in addition to giving them access to scholarships. A new commission will run the program and organize fundraising activities. No taxpayer money will be contributed to the funds at all.

Local Supporters

The issue of undocumented students in Illinois gained prominence in 2010 when two well-known Palatine students were taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol officials. The two brothers, Rafael and Carlos Robles, were apprehended while taking an Amtrak train to visit a friend at Harvard University. When asked about their immigration status, the pair admitted they were in the country illegally. A public outcry followed their detainment, and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and local nonprofits intervened on their behalf. The brothers were subsequently released and their case has been "delayed indefinitely."

The plight of these brothers and others served as a catalyst for local groups like the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) that were supporting the passage of the DREAM Act in Illinois. Other groups, including college presidents from across the state, offered support as well.

Illegal Immigration Growing in Illinois

A 2010 study by the Pew Hispanic Research Center found that contrary to national trends, the population of illegal immigrants actually increased in Illinois from 475,000 in 2008 to 525,000 in 2009. Illinois has the fifth-highest population of undocumented immigrants in the country, behind California, Texas, Florida and New York.

One organization, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), estimated in a 2007 study that as many as 10,000 of Illinois' k-12 students were either brought into the country without visas or are otherwise in the country illegally. The study estimates the total cost of educating these primary and secondary school students to be around $1.1 billion dollars per year. This high cost makes educating the children of illegal aliens the largest cost borne by taxpayers as a result of illegal immigration, the study concluded.

Some Criticism, but General Support

While the DREAM Act enjoyed bipartisan support in Illinois, it isn't without its critics. FAIR and other groups opposed it on the principle that such laws would encourage more undocumented immigrants to come to Illinois. As these immigrants move to the area, FAIR and other opponents argue, they often turn to social services that then must be paid for by local taxpayers.

Nevertheless, polls show that Illinois residents are positive in their opinions of measures that support illegal immigrant students. Chicago holds the largest concentration of illegal immigrants in the state, and a 2006 Pew survey found that three-quarters of residents there agreed that the children of illegal immigrants should be allowed to attend public schools. As far as college is concerned, a majority (54 percent) said that illegal immigrants should qualify for in-state tuition at Illinois colleges.

The Latest in a National Effort

The DREAM Act in Illinois is the latest development in an ongoing national effort by immigration groups and politicians to pass similar legislation. An initial wave of "DREAM Acts" began in state governments around the country back in 2001, shortly after the national DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act was introduced in Congress. This act would grant undocumented students of "good moral standing" legal status if they attend college or join the military. Since they could not influence the immigration status of students, state-level measures focused on "tuition equity," or allowing students who lived in the state illegally to be able to pay in-state tuition at local colleges. Since then, more than ten other states, including Illinois, approved such measures and now provide in-state tuition to illegal immigrant students.

A second wave of state-level DREAM Acts, which includes the measure approved today, gained momentum after the national DREAM Act failed Congress in December of last year. However, IL Sen. Dick Durbin, who co-sponsored the first national measure, re-introduced a similar measure back in May.

Illinois and the National Immigration Debate

The high population of illegal immigrants in Illinois and the passage of measures like the DREAM Act bring the state to the forefront of this national debate on to treat undocumented immigrant students.The national DREAM Act's first-ever public hearing was held in Chicago back in at the end of June, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other local politicians came out in support of the measure. A 2010 Gallup Poll found that a slim majority (54%) of Americans would vote in favor it. But as in Chicago, opponents of the measure say that any kind of "amnesty" for illegal immigrants will only encourage more people to cross the border.

While it's unclear whether DREAM Act legislation will ever pass nationally, support for it is gaining momentum across the country. Once too afraid to reveal their illegal status, undocumented students are becoming increasingly vocal. A former Washington Post journalist made headlines when he admitted that he was an illegal immigrant, and his actions have in part inspired other illegal immigrants to "come out" about their immigration status. Whatever the solution, there are currently around 1 million unauthorized children in the U.S. attending public schools, who will someday graduate and wonder what to do next.

 
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taxed / August 1, 2011 1:00 PM

I cannot understand why a state government that represents the taxpayers would officially support illegal immigration with rewards for the illegal immigrants. And that is exactly what the dream act is. I have a dream too - about people obeying the laws of this country.

jc / August 1, 2011 4:44 PM

everyone deserves a chance it's not like these students had a say in wether they wanted to come to the u.s. if you were to walk in their shoes ... dont judge ANYONE without knowinq who they really are.

JR / August 1, 2011 6:24 PM

This is ridiculous. I have 3 children who borrowed and borrowed and borrowed to complete college, in addition to parent loans that my husband and I got to help the children, and they never got any kind of financial assistance from the State of Illinois, plus we all now have to repay the loans. But now comes the undocumented illegals, and they private businesses that we most likely support with our purchases, etc., and the State of Illinois, who we support with our tax dollars, and now going to throw money (MORE money!) at the illegals?????? Give me a break - this country is going to crap real quick. Anpther reason that all of us decent, hardworking CITIZENS need to get out of Illinois, and get out fast, because the illegals are eating us alive with their drain on our social services and our economy. And now we are going to give them money that the CITIZENS are not entitled to? UNBELIEVEABLE.

breana / August 2, 2011 12:14 AM

Well people could get mad at what the governor did but who ever is mad think about ur ancestors who came here as immigrants to. If you guys had problems paying back the loans then why get them in the first place if you know its hard to pay back. Even thou people get mad because undocumented people have jobs, think of all the citizens that stand on corners or the exits of freeways and ask for money. Most of them are crack heads. You never see undocumented peopele do that unless if they just got here and need money to eat.

bill / August 2, 2011 9:06 AM

what part of illegal don't we understand these people don't belong here. there are processes to entering this country. Now thier going to get a free college education to boot. you got to be kidding.

Elisa / August 2, 2011 5:01 PM

People aren't illegal, only their immigration status is. Besides, if the US didn't work so hard to make other countries excruciatingly difficult to raise children in, "illegal" immigration would hardly be the problem it is today. Let's not forget about all the times throughout history that our government has canvassed other nations to bring laborers here to work at painfully low wages so our "legal" citizens didn't have to, then decided to throw them out the second our economy has started to break. Before we go around blaming people for wanting to live a better life, let's break our embarassing cycle of collective amnesia and think about what we can do to make everyone's lives better. No need for nativism in this day and age.

ROBERT / August 2, 2011 10:10 PM

Just one coment,is not that easy,the kids who want to take advantage of this dream act,first need to finish high school with good grades,and I believe any other kid,no matter if is white,yellow,hispanic or african american,with the same good grades can get help for their tuition.I have a nephew who join the marines,instead be in College, and He can get a loan for college,but he wants to figth for this country. So if they enroll in the army,they are welcome, but if they want to study they are stopped,or deported.

GOD / August 3, 2011 10:19 AM

americans brace yourselfs. have you ever wonder why american women are called "no brains", maybe cause they are the weak species on earth. its survial of the fittest. the USA wants genius people who can bring more money to the government. white "citizens" are not cutting it any more. they want fresh meat "immigrants" harworking geniuses. whats that black people call in for when they get layoff.. oh they get free money cause they dont work. taxpayers have you ever wonder where your money goes.lol.. how about white people who are asking for money on every corner of the street..hey white "citizen" you want a job.. come work at McDonalds.. oh sorry you are to good to flip burgers.lol. let the immigrants do it..bottom line everyone who is legal dont even finish high school or college. and they call themselves voters saying that immigrants are taking ther jobs...you want a job come clean my office and apartment oh ill hook you up with a job..minimum wage cause you dont have education..bottom line there is no USA without immigrants and they know it.. charles darwin survival of the fittest..

Ginny / August 15, 2011 11:55 AM

The only way they should receive free tuition is if they first serve in the Armed Forces. Just completing high school means nothing.

daddy / August 16, 2011 4:31 PM

EVERYONE WHO LIVES IN THIS COUNTRY CAME FROM IMMIGRANT PARENTS AND THEY ONLY COME HERE ILLEGALLY BECAUSE ITS SO HARD TO COME HERE LEGALLY UNLESS YOU HAVE ALOT OF MONEY.

J.C / October 24, 2011 2:36 PM

I for one feel that everyone deserves an equal chance at making a better future for themseleves. Although, citizens feel as if the money that they are entitled to is being given away, it is not, it SPECIFICALLY states that "No taxpayer money will be contributed to the funds at all." Therefore, no one should have any complaints. If you happened to take out loans to finance your college education that was on you, there are thousands of scholarships available, however, it is left up to YOU to make the effort and do the research. Unfortunately, undocumented students are not so lucky to have a vast amount of scholarships available to them. If they put forth the effort to educate themseleves in an effort to improve their future, why not?

J.C / October 24, 2011 2:38 PM

**** & if I might add,

if you were to put yourselves in their shoes, you would not be sitting here complaining, instead you would be on the many protesters fighting for an equal oppurtunity.

c. a. macomber / December 29, 2011 6:29 PM

When the Illinois DREAM Act was signed into law, it was stated that about 5,000 illegals would be eligible for it, but only about 1,000 would take advantage of it. Are there any figures on how many illegals have taken advantage of it? How many legals were denied admission to an Illinois college because an illegal got 1 or 2 points more on an ACT or SAT?

c. a. macomber / December 29, 2011 6:29 PM

When the Illinois DREAM Act was signed into law, it was stated that about 5,000 illegals would be eligible for it, but only about 1,000 would take advantage of it. Are there any figures on how many illegals have taken advantage of it? How many legals were denied admission to an Illinois college because an illegal got 1 or 2 points more on an ACT or SAT?

the mexican / February 28, 2012 1:17 PM

TO JR AUGUST : WELL WELL I BELIEVE ALL OF YOU PEOPLE WHO HAVE THE SAME THINKING ABOUT HARD WORKING INMIGRANTS ARE SO MAD BECAUSE YOU USED TO LIVE OUT OF THE GOVERMENT MONEY HERE AND THERE YOU LIKE TO GO TO WORK FOR 8 HOURS CAUSE YOU DON'T LIKE TO OVERWORK YOURSELF SO THEN WHEN IT HAPPEN THAT YOUR LOAN PAYMENTS ARE DUE THEN YOU LAZY PEOPLE CRY AND CRY SAYING THAT THERE IS NO MONEY IN YOUR BANK ACCOUNT BUT YOU COULD HAVE WORKED A LITTLE EXTRA OVER TIME AND THEN PAY YOUR LOANS BUT YOU ARE TO LAZY TO DO IT AND EXPECT THE GOVERMENT TO HELP YOU JUST CAUSE YOU THINK YOU REALLY DESERVE IT BUT REALLY TELL ME WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO DESERVE TO BE HELPED WHEN ALL YOU DO IS THINK ABOUT VACATIONS HAVE FUN DRINK GOING OUT SPEND MONEY HERE AND THERE LIVING LARGE WATCHING REALITY SHOWS TRYING TO HAVE THE SAME LIFESTYLE AS THAT ABSURD PEOPLE IN THOSE REALITY CRAP SHOWS AND THEN AFTER THE REAL LIFE HIT YOU WITH THE UGLY TRUTH THEN YOU LOOK AROUND AND THE ONLY PEOPLE YOU CAN BLAME FOR WHAT IS HAPPENING TO YOU IS THE PEOPLE WHO DOESN'T HAVE A VOICE THE PEOPLE WHO NOBODY WANTS TO REPRESENT BUT THINK ABOUT IT THAT PEOPLE YOU HATE IS THE PEOPLE WHO CLEANS YOUR CRAP HERE AND THERE FOR ALMOST NOTHING THAT IS THE PEOPLE WHO COOKS YOUR FOOD IN TO THOSE FANCY RESTAURANTS WERE YOU GO TO EAT AND HAVE FUN AND BTHEY WORK SO HARD AND THEY GET PAID SO LITTLE BUT STILL THEY GO TO WORK BECAUSE THEY HAVE THE HIGHEST SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY SUCH A THING YOU GUYS DON'T HAVE THAT SAME PEOPLE MOANS YOUR LAWNS HERE AND THERE THEY LIVE INTO THE SO CALLED FIRST WORLD THEY LIVE INTO THE SO CALLED LAND OF THE FREE BUT THEN AGAIN THEY LIVE INTO THE WORST CONDITIONS JUST BECAUSE YOU PEOPLE HAVE NOBODY BUT THEM TO BLAME AND PICK ON AND THEN AGAIN THEY LIVE AND WORK UNDER CONDITIONS OF SLAVERY GETTING PAID LESS THAN THE MINIMUM WAGE AND YOU GUYS KNOW THAT BUT THEN YOU PRETEND THAT SUCH A THING DOESN'T HAPPEN HERE YOU KNOW I AM GOING TO RECOMEND YOU TO THINK TWICE NEXT TIME YOU WANNA BLAME OTHERS FOR YOUR SITUATION LOOK INTO YOUR OWN ACTIONS BE RESPONSIBLE AND CARE ABOUT YOUR OWN BUSINESS THANNK YOU RACIST HATER WHITE TRASH SQUARE MINDED PEOPLE

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