Illinois Governor Pat Quinn will sign the state's DREAM Act on Monday, a provision that will grant access for both documented and undocumented children of immigrants to private college scholarships and state college savings programs.
The bill (SB 2185) passed the state Senate in early May by a wide margin (45-11) that involved bipartisan support -- 11 Republicans supported the bill in addition to 34 Democrats. Later in the month, it was approved in a much closer vote (60-54) in the state House before heading to Quinn's desk for a signature to the delight of immigrant rights advocates throughout the state.
Illinois is the first state in the country to approve such a measure.
Upon its approval by the General Assembly, Quinn said in a statement that he believes "everyone has the right to a first-class education, and the Illinois DREAM Act strengthens Illinois’ commitment to ensuring education for all."
"The legislation allows private funding to be used to help students pay for higher education and to train high school counselors to assist undocumented children forward their educational careers," Quinn continued.
The law -- which borrows its name from a somewhat similar piece of federal legislation which stalled in late 2010 -- will establish a so-called "DREAM Fund," which will grant scholarships to undocumented students with aspirations in higher education. It will also encourage counselors to be trained on educational opportunities for undocumented students. The law will not, unlike the failed federal bill, provide a path to citizenship for undocumented students.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has also been a vocal supporter of the measure and last week announced a new Office of New Americans as part of his goal to make Chicago the most immigrant-friendly city in the country.
The law, according to NBC Chicago, will be signed at Benito Juarez High School in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. Emanuel and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago), who was arrested Tuesday as part of a demonstration against the Obama administration's deportation record, are among those expected to attend alongside the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, a group which lobbied for the law's passage.
Though both Democratic and Republican lawmakers approved the measure, at least one conservative group -- the Palatine Tea Party -- stood in staunch opposition to the bill and said that Republican legislators who approved it "are part of the problem in Illinois. Instead of focusing on issues like jobs, taxes and our economy they are more interested in getting votes. It is clear our current elected officials are much more concerned with their reelection than what matters for the citizens of Illinois" in an e-mail blast. They added that they would "remember" those Republicans who supported the bill.
Other Republicans, including Rep. Robert Pritchard (R-Hinckley) have criticized the law for its spending of state dollars on undocumented residents, which Quinn and other supporters have pointed out is a complaint not based in fact: The DREAM Fund's commission will not be supported by any tax dollars, as Wilmette Patch reports.