Some Dreams Come True: Illinois DREAM Act and Smart Enforcement Act Passed in Illinois Senate and House

By Alexander Demas, Government Affairs Intern

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On May 4th, the Illinois Senate passed the Illinois DREAM Act and on May 6th, the Illinois House passed Smart Enforcement Act. The passing of these two bills marks a momentous time in history for thousands of undocumented immigrants living in Illinois. The Illinois Senate made a statement to immigrant communities across the state by passing the act with a bipartisan vote of 45-11.  Of the 45 votes in favor, 11 were Senators who are members of the Republican Party.

On May 31st, The Illinois DREAM Act found more success as it was passed in the Illinois House with a 60-54 bipartisan vote. With the passing of the bill, thousands of immigrants will be able to attend schools of higher education around the nation.

  • This act will allow thousands of undocumented students, or DREAMers, who were brought to America as children to obtain an education.
  • The DREAM Act will provide good information for students by focusing on developing and teaching high school college counselors the best approaches to helping DREAMers, so that their dreams of going to college do not remain just that, dreams, but are realized.
  • The realization of these dreams will come through education access. The DREAM Act will provide funding for students through a privately funded Illinois DREAM Fund administered by a volunteer state commission.
  • Further, this privately funded scholarship will offer qualified DREAM students college savings programs and prepaid tuition programs.

The passing of the Illinois DREAM Act not only shows that Illinois is an immigrant friendly state, but also that the political power of immigrants in this country is growing stronger. ICIRR, The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and the leading organization in the fight for The DREAM Act, was able to create a team of well qualified Congressmen, State Representatives, University Presidents, and religious and civic leaders to help push this endeavor forward. ICIRR and its member organizations thank Rep. Acevedo for his ability to gain support from both republicans and democrats; Senate President John Cullerton, Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, Senator Richard Durbin, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Two days after the Illinois Senate passed the Illinois DREAM Act, May 6th, the Illinois House passed the Smart Enforcement Act. The Smart Enforcement Act is a direct response to ICE’s (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) discriminatory and unregulated practice of arrests and deportations of people who have minor convictions or have never committed a crime. The act passed with a bipartisan vote of 66-43. The Smart Enforcement Act will make sure that if communities will participate in the “Secure Communities” they will do so in a manner that is concurrent with the principles that the State of Illinois upholds. The Smart Enforcement Act will do three things.

  • Give state counties the choice whether to participate in “Secure Communities”;
  • Offer a full accounting of the program’s impact and costs to local law enforcement; and
  • Require that this program be used only to identify and deport convicted criminals.

The state of Illinois holds the honor of being the first state in the nation to opt out of the “Secure Communities” program and is the first state in the nation to actually implement a version of the DREAM Act. The power of immigrant populations is growing and the difficult issues surrounding the populations must be addressed. Take ACTION and continue to support immigrant communities in our great nation.

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