News / USA

Illinois DREAM Act Becomes Law Amid Immigration Reform Debate

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn celebrates with students and supporters after signing the Illinois Dream Act into law at a Latino neighborhood high school in Chicago, Aug 1, 2011
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn celebrates with students and supporters after signing the Illinois Dream Act into law at a Latino neighborhood high school in Chicago, Aug 1, 2011
Kane Farabaugh

The Illinois DREAM Act, recently signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn, gives undocumented immigrant students access to privately funded college tuition assistance.  Illinois, a state with one of the highest populations of illegal aliens, is the latest to pass such a measure.  But lawmakers in other states, most notably Maryland, are working to stop similar legislation.

One student's story

Noor is a recent college graduate who lives in suburban Chicago.  Originally from Pakistan, she came to the United States with her family more than a decade ago.  Since that time, she has been an undocumented immigrant, trying to navigate through life and a college education.

"My parents have paid practically every dollar out of their own pockets.  It seems archaic, but because I couldn't work, they had to do it for me.  I didn't get any student loans, any financial aid at all.  They had to pretty much work day and night to put me through school," Noor said.

Why it's important

Even though she won't benefit from the program, Noor is an enthusiastic supporter of the Illinois DREAM Act.  It gives illegal immigrants like her a way to receive privately funded financial aid to help pay for the high costs of college tuition.

"We can't get student loans or anything like that, so we are like at a standstill.  Our lives are pretty much on hold until we are legal.  So for people like us, this is extremely important," she added.

Illinois is the latest state to draft legislation giving undocumented students an opportunity to complete a higher education.  The Illinois DREAM Act creates a commission that will oversee the distribution of financial aid to applicants.  

Opponents

The measure enjoyed bipartisan support when it passed in the state legislature earlier this year.  But Kristen Williamson, a spokesperson for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, says her organization opposes it.

"This opposition doesn't come from trying to punish the kids or students for the sins of their parents, but rather not reward the parents for illegal activity.  With the DREAM Fund commission, specifically in Illinois, although the money is coming from private funds, the funds are tax exempt," Williamson said.

And Williamson says opposition against similar measures in other states throughout the country is growing.

"Illinois is moving in the opposite direction of the rest of the country.  I believe that there are 11 other states that have a version of the DREAM Act and I think in nine of them there are movements to get rid of it," said Maryland State Delegate Patrick McDonough.

Maryland example

In April, lawmakers in Maryland passed a law that would provide in-state tuition discounts under certain circumstances to undocumented students.

"It's a displacement of a citizen.  If they get a certain slot at an education institution or they receive a certain scholarship or benefit, that is money that is going to be displaced that could be available in these very difficult economic times to a family member or an American citizen," said McDonough, a Republican who opposed the measure in Maryland.

He spearheaded a successful petition drive in Maryland to suspend the legislation.  He says close to 75,000 people signed the petition.  The issue now goes before voters in a statewide referendum during next year's general elections.

"In Maryland, it's going to have a big impact.  It's going to bring out to vote a tremendous number of people, many of whom have never voted before.  It's going to affect our congressional and U.S. Senate races.  And I intend to run for the United States Senate against incumbent Democrat Ben Cardin and it's certainly going to have an impact on that race," McDonough added.

Legislation for a national DREAM Act, or Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act, which provides a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, was first introduced in the U.S. Congress in 2001.  It passed the House of Representatives last year, but did not have the support necessary in the Senate to become law.  The legislation was reintroduced in May in response to President Barack Obama's call for a comprehensive immigration reform bill.  Lawmakers have yet to take up the measure.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid