On May 13, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) held its DREAM Unity Event celebrating the accomplishments of the Illinois Senate last week in passing the Illinois Dream Act and Smart Enforcement Act. Outreach Coordinator Gerald Hankerson and Government Affairs Intern Alexander Demas attended.
The Illinois DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act passed last week with a strong bipartisan vote of 45-11. Of the 45 votes in support, 11 were Senators from the Republican Party. The Smart Enforcement Act also passed two days later with a vote of 66-43 with 17 supporting votes coming from Republicans.
In attendance at the event were DREAM Act supporters that included public officials and educators: U.S. Senator Richard Durbin; Congressman Luis Gutierrez; Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle; then Mayor-elect of Chicago Rahm Emanuel; Dr. Michael Hogan, President of University of Illinois; Rev. Dennis Holtschneider of DePaul University; Manuel Flores, Trustee of Dominican University; and Dr. Nivine Megahed, President of National-Louis University.
Supporters listened intently as members of the Immigrant Youth Justice League about their experiences being undocumented students, or DREAMers. After listening to their emotional stories, Senator Durbin gave his own testimony of coming from a family of immigrants. Durbin called the DREAM Act “critically important” and expressed his concern for immigrants by saying, “[These immigrants] sing our National Anthem, pledge allegiance to the nation’s flag, and believe they are Americans. Therefore, they should be Americans.” Mayor-Elect Emanuel shared his view and told the audience that Illinois would be a leader in supporting immigrants, “showing the country a different path” towards strengthening the nation.
“Any policy or discourse that ignores or even stifles the opportunity for people who want to work, learn and benefit this country would be detrimental to our nation’s future,” noted Hankerson. “CAIR-Chicago continues to urge the General Assembly and our federal government to enact fair, effective, long-term comprehensive immigration reform.”
The Illinois DREAM Act rests on three basic guarantees for immigrants: a DREAM commission that will help pay tuition for undocumented immigrants that can not receive tax-funded financial aid, a college savings plan, and requires college advisors to give more accurate and useful advice to DREAMers seeking higher education.
To learn more about how you can support the DREAM Act and other state bills that advocate for immigrants, visit http://www.icirr.org.