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Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
Wed Dec 1, 2010

Pressure Builds For The DREAM Act

The DREAM Act is closer to passage than its ever been. But will it get over the ledge?

Last night, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced he would file cloture on the legislation, which would create a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants who moved to the United States before they were 16 and completed two years of college or military service. If the motion to end debate (and a threatened Republican filibuster) is approved by 60 senators, the act would come up for an up-and-down vote sometime this month.

So far, only one Republican -- Richard Lugar of Indiana --  says he will openly backing the bill. As Mother Jones' Suzy Khimm reports, another five members would need to cross the aisle for it to survive. We wrote earlier this week about the pressure immigrant rights advocates are applying to Illinois' newest Sen. Mark Kirk, who has said that the federal government should wait to consider the provision until it gains more control of the country's southern border. (Illegal immigration has declined precipitously across the country, it should be noted, in part because of increased enforcement efforts.) Perhaps Kirk should listen to his friend, former Gov. Jim Edgar, who recently wrote that the DREAM Act was both "sensible" and "humane."

PI Original
by Micah Maidenberg
Mon Nov 29, 2010

Immigrant Advocates Press Kirk On DREAM Act

Immigrant advocates are hoping Illinois' new Republican Senator Mark Kirk, who said he didn't support the DREAM Act during his squeaker of a victory on November 2, is ready to take another look at the bill now that he's joining Congress' Upper Chamber.

Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
Tue Nov 16, 2010

Number Of The Day: 35 Percent

That's the number of Latino four-year-olds who attended pre-school in Illinois, which is well below the national average, according to a new study out of the Institute of Human Development at the University of California-Berkeley. Two-thirds of white and Asian-American children and 54 percent of African-American children are generally enrolled.

The discrepancy is in part cultural, particularly among recent immigrants; language barriers and immigration status questions, the author found, lead more parents in Latino communities to keep their child at home with family. The effects, however, are clear. As early as age two, Latino children begin to lag behind their peers in early reading skills. That's because early intervention plays a crucial role in the lives of children, specifically those from underprivileged backgrounds.

This year, the General Assembly mandated that public schools with pre-school programs must offer a bilingual education to kids for which English is a second language, the first state government in the nation to do so. And the governor used his special budget authority to restore early ed cuts for the current fiscal year. But until the budget crisis is fixed, school funding will remain in flux.

Quick Hit
by Micah Maidenberg
Tue Nov 2, 2010

A Young Voter's Motivation: Immigration Reform And Obama

An interview with a younger Latino voter outside of Yates Elementary School on Chicago's Northwest Side this morning illustrated one of the big issues motivating the Latino community to the polls this year: immigration reform, or the lack of it. Marchello Calixta, pictured at the right, said he wanted to cast a ballot today specifically for Congressman Luis Gutierrez (4th District), who has championed comprehensive immigration reform legislation on Capitol Hill, and Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias, who Calixta hopes will help get an immigration reform bill passed in the Senate.

"They know what issues are big here in Illinois. One of them is immigration," he said about the state treasurer's campaign. Calixta, 30, is of Puerto Rican descent, meaning that his family is not ensnared by the legal limbo of having an undocumented status. But he still feels solidarity with immigrants who are. "They're still our brothers," he says. "We have to look out for them."

In Illinois, an estimated 10 percent of the registered electorate two years ago were "New American voters" -- immigrants or the children of immigrants. It's a big voting bloc that's looking for leadership on immigration reform in Washington, and that may drive up turnout here and in other races around the country. Recent polling data from the pollster Latino Decisions shows that the number of Latino voters (both immigrant and native born) enthusiastic about the midterms jumped in the last weeks of October. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, meanwhile, plans to mobilize more than 133,000 immigrants to the polls today, according to a press release.

Calixta, before he left Yates, also said he was motivated to vote today for another basic reason: to back Chicago's hometown president. "The big thing is Obama and supporting him," he said. That's something Democratic candidates up and down the ticket this Election Day are hoping will make a difference for them by the time the polls close this evening.