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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid