Immigration advocates representing Latino, Asian, Polish, African, Arab, and Muslim communities went down to Springfield to lobby for two key bills that are on deck: the Smart Enforcement Act and the Illinois DREAM Act.
Piled into 15 buses and 12 vans, nearly 200 students were among the 800
immigration advocates who headed to the state capital to lobby for the passage of two key pieces of legislation. They represented Latino, Asian, Polish, African, Arab,
and Muslim communities and were gathered by the Illinois Coalition for
Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR).
For the state’s DREAM Act (SB 2185), ICIRR is touting the couple of hundred students on hand and the support of university presidents from the University of Illinois, Loyola, DePaul, Dominican, Roosevelt, North Park, National-Louis, and Elmhurst. Just last month, Progress Illinois covered a rally at Daley Plaza where a large crowd of young people holding signs, banners, and American flags, gathered to hear undocumented youths from around Chicagoland talk about what it's like living without immigration papers. The rally was in response to federal DREAM Act -- a bill that would have offered a path for undocumented youth to regularize their status -- that failed to make it through the last Congress and was blocked in the 2010 lame duck session by a GOP filibuster.
The state’s version would establish a privately-funded Illinois DREAM Fund for scholarships to “DREAM youths” and allow all families to open up college savings and prepaid tuition programs. The law would also allow the youths to get driver’s certificates and help ensure they are able to get correct information about their options by getting high school and college counselor training. ICIRR said no additional state funds will be used with this bill.
The Smart Enforcement Act (HB 929) comes in response to the controversial "Secure Communities" federal immigration program. The Secure Communities program is headed by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Aside from the fact that it is reportedly overreaching into reluctant counties using questionable tactics, the program initially created in an effort to catch and deport dangerous criminals was failing at doing so. In fact, ICIRR found that 77 percent of all immigrants arrested through July of last year in the participating counties in the state had no past criminal convictions.
The Smart Enforcement Act would allow counties to opt out of the Secure Communities program. Currently, 26 of the 102 counties in the state are enrolled and according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, some of them -- including Kane County -- are trying to get out. In Cook County, police agencies have actually refused to implement the system altogether, citing "sanctuary ordinances" that prohibit local authorities from immigration enforcement. The act would also bar state money from being used to detain or deport non-criminal immigrants and seek transparency by requiring counties to report monthly to the Illinois State Police about arrests, charges, changes in status, and costs for an annual evaluation.
We'll keep tracking these bills as they make their way through the General Assembly.