Wednesday marked a big day for immigration rights in the Prairie State.
The Illinois DREAM Act allowing undocumented students access to higher
education passed the state Senate with overwhelming bi-partisan support,
while Gov. Pat Quinn withdrew from the controversial federal
deportation program, “Secure Communities.”
The state’s DREAM Act (SB 2185) passed in the Senate on a vote of 45-11, with the support of 11 Republicans. The bill establishes a privately-funded Illinois DREAM Fund for scholarships to “DREAM youths” and gives all families the opportunity to take part in college savings and prepaid tuition programs.
The law would also let undocumented youths get driver’s certificates and will help ensure that they are provided with correct information about their options for higher education. The llinois Coalition for Immigrant and
Refugee Rights (ICIRR) said no additional state funds will be used with
this bill. The bill now heads to the Illinois House, where 13
representatives have already signed on to sponsor, ICIRR said.
Meanwhile, Gov. Quinn sent a letter (PDF) to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to withdraw from the Secure Communities program. Quinn’s letter said “... the implementation of the Secure Communities program in Illinois is contrary to the stated purpose of the [Memorandum of Agreement] ...” This comes as the Smart Enforcement Act (HB 929) is introduced, which allows counties to opt out of the program. Secure Communities was reportedly overreaching into reluctant counties using questionable tactics, while some police agencies were also refusing to implement it. And although it was initially created in an effort to catch and deport dangerous criminals, ICIRR data shows that 77 percent of all immigrants arrested through July of last year in the participating counties in the state had no past criminal convictions.