SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The children of immigrants, both legal and undocumented, would be able to obtain private college scholarships and enroll in state savings programs under legislation approved Monday.
A 61-53 vote in the Illinois House sent the measure to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk because it already passed the state Senate. Quinn said in a statement that he looked forward to signing it.
Supporters praised the legislation as a much-needed way to offer financial help to undocumented immigrants who graduate from Illinois high schools and want to continue their studies in college but can’t afford it.
The Illinois Dream Act would create a panel to raise private money for college scholarships and let the children of immigrants join programs that help them invest money and save for college.
“These students deserve an opportunity. They work hard. We send them through grade school, we send them through high school, then we slam a door in their face and say, ‘Oh well, all the hard work is for nothing. You can’t go to college,’” said state Rep. Edward Acevedo, D-Chicago.
To qualify for the college savings pool, students must have a social security number or taxpayer identification number. Scholarship recipients must have at least one immigrant parent, and the student must have attended school in Illinois for at least three years.
Carla Navoa, a 22-year-old student at the University of Illinois at Chicago who is in the country illegally, lobbied for the bill because it will help others like her pay for college. She said she currently isn’t enrolled in college because of the financial stress on her family with a younger sister in college, too.
“Having access to this Dream Fund would really help us,” Navoa said.
Opponents have criticized the legislation as improper because it provides benefits that could help people who violate immigration laws. They also have complained it’s confusing because of proposed federal legislation by the same name that would give some undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.
The Illinois Dream Act has no impact on a person’s immigration status and does not offer a path to citizenship.