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.”



3 Responses to Gov. Pat Quinn Signs Illinois DREAM Act into Law

  1. America is not democratic…America is just managed by piss poor elected government officials.

    I am appalled by this law. We can’t give documented citizens a free education. We can’t give our unemployed a free opportunity to return to school. America has college degreed individuals who can’t find employment.

    This is another slap in the face. America is the only place on earth where undocumented, unofficial visitors are allowed to stay without penalty. In the black neighborhoods, we are bombarded with store owners from Africa (undocumented, making loads of money braiding hair), the Pakistans (who own 98% if the stores in our community) who are given grant monies tax free to open up businesses.

    When are we going to treat the documented American citizen, born naturally in this DEMOCRATIC country (Lan of the Free) with opportunities?

    • In response to Ms. Jordan’s posting:

      First of all, let me state that just as you are “appalled” by this law, I’m appalled at your lack of social conciousness and decency posting something with this sort of crude and insensitive language on a community-based publication’s website.

      In regards to your stances on the DREAM Act, no one is offering or even condoning that undocumented citizens be given a free education. Not only is there no such thing in this country as a free education, all the legislation is simply creating is the opportunity for students and undocumented citizens to have the same oppportunities for bettering their lives and learning as everyone else in this country (whether they deserve the chance or not)is given just for being born here.

      I don’t believe you’ve done much research or put much thought into what this issue truy represents and what this landmark piece of legislation the DREAM act really means for the future of our country and all of it’s citizens, legal and illegal …

      Furthermore, you stated yourself that there are full-fledged citizens with college degress who can’t find work, so why would we wish or support denying anyone, especially those in the extremely difficult position of being without legal citizenship, the basic right of education and face them with even more hardship and obstacles to overcome? Why would we want make anyone’s, especially our undocumented workers who have an extremely important role in our society and economy here in the United States,unnecessarily harder and more challenging – and knowingly keep these modern immigrants from the same promise of a better life and opportunity that every European immigrant and your ancestors were in search of when they came to this country through Ellis Island.

      Finally, I find if anything is a “slap in the face” it’s your absolutely inappropriate and horrific comments here about those of different ethnic and minority persausions. Your generalizations and bigoted comments about the “black” community and the “Pakistans” are extremely hurtful and racist … and it would be much appreciated if you could keep these posionous, hateful comments to yourself. There is such a thing as free speech, but there is also such a thing as a hate speech (a prime is example is much of what you have written here, especially in your last paragraph) … as well as there is a little thing known as common courtesy and respect for others. In the future, especially in public and community forums, please refrain from subjecting everyone else to your twisted, skewed mentality and ideas regarding race relations.

      To provide you an answer to your last question, our country provides plenty of opportunities to natural citizens, those who are quality individuals and deserve the privilege and those who might not be so worthy … but what makes this country beautiful is that it is a democracy and anyone who has the drive and takes the intiative to work to better themselves supposedly has the chance to create the greatest life for them and their loved ones (something I think the DREAM act supports and has brought us/our government one step closer to embodying fully).

      P.S. I believe you meant to refer to our country as the “Land of the Free” – which it will never be as long as we have individuals posting derogatory and damaging comments and supporting the denial of basic freedoms of our country’s people …

      Also, to The Gate, great job on this article! Your writing is superb, and the quality of your reporting is impeccable … Your insticts for writing and reporting on community issues are flawless and I’m so proud of the publication (I hope you are too)! Go DREAM act and Go Gate Newspaper! Keep doing the wonderful, top-notch job that you are!

  2. Kudos Hartley! Couldn’t have responded better myself. Apparently, they never went to college to understand that no one gets a free education. There are how many financial aid options for American citizens while there will only be this one for undocumented citizens.
    Everyone should have their right to an education.