Gov. Pat Quinn Signs Illinois DREAM Act into Law
Gov. Pat Quinn signs the Illinois Dream Act into law on August 1, 2011 at Benito Juarez Community Academy
On August 1, 2011, Benito Juarez Community Academy became the epicenter for new pro-immigrant legislation signed in Illinois.
Surrounded by immigrant advocates, hundreds of students, community supporters and rows of local and state officials, Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Illinois DREAM Act into law—a historic legislation designed to increase the educational opportunities of undocumented immigrant students in Illinois.
“It’s really a very special day for everybody in Illinois and everybody in here,” Gov. Quinn said. “We are showing today with my signature on this bill what democracy is all about.”
Senate Bill 2185, passed in the Illinois House in December and in the Senate in May, makes Illinois the first state in the country to create a privately-financed fund that will offer college scholarships to undocumented immigrant students. The act allows anyone with a taxpayer number to participate in the State’s Treasure’s College Savings Pools and the Illinois Prepaid Tuition Plan, and requires the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to establish an Illinois DREAM Fund Commission to establish scholarships for qualified undocumented students.
Arianna Salgado, a youth leader from Nuestra Vos and PASO (West Suburban Action Project) speaks during the signing of the Illinois Dream Act on August 1, 2011
Additionally, the act requires college counselors to be better trained and prepared to know what college options are available for undocumented students, something students like Arianna Salgado, a youth leader from Nuestra Voz and PASO (West Suburban Action Project), were not able to get when applying to college.
“[My counselor] told me that going to college would be impossible because I did not qualify for financial aid,” Salgado said. “I felt frustrated. At the moment it seemed impossible that I would ever go to college even though I had the same potential as my peers.”
Among the elected officials present was Rep. Edward Acevedo, who was one of the initial sponsors of the Illinois DREAM Act, along with Senate President John Cullerton.
“To me education is a civil right,” Acevedo said. “Until this moment a large segment of our society has been cut off from the opportunity from accurate information about attending colleges, they’ve been denied the opportunity to participate in programs that help prepare them for higher education.”
Former City Clerk Miguel del Valle, City Clerk Susana Mendoza, Chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education Gery Chico and State Senator Tony Muñoz were among the many legislators and community leaders on stage to show their support for the bill.
From left: University of Illinois President Michael Hogan, The Resurrection Project CEO Raul Raymundo, Benito Juarez Community Academy Principal Juan Carlos Ocon, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Nuestra Voz youth leader Arianna Salgado, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn
Mayor Rahm Emmanuel encouraged the students to take full advantage of the new legislation.
“This is only an opportunity,” he said. “Now we must seize it. It is a means to something greater but this is not the end.”
Although the Illinois DREAM Act makes it easier for undocumented students to pursue higher education, it does not change the students’ immigration status.
“Our job is not done,” said Raul Raymundo, CEO of The Resurrection Project. “We need to continue to work extra hard, we need to double our efforts, to work for a federal DREAM Act. It is not enough for the DREAMers to go on to college if after college they cannot work.”