Illinois governor Pat Quinn is poised to sign legislation giving undocumented immigrant students access to educational benefits, making Illinois the second state in less than a week to pass legislation aimed at bolstering education for undocumented immigrants.
The Illinois DREAM Act would make undocumented students eligible for private college scholarships and would allow them to enroll in state college savings programs. The California DREAM Act, signed last week by governor Jerry Brown, granted undocumented immigrants at public universities greater access to privately funded scholarships. The California state legislature is debating a more controversial measure to allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition, which Brown has signaled he supports.
Both the Illinois and the California bills differ from the federal DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants who emigrated illegally as children. But all three pieces of legislation are informed by the belief that some undocumented immigrants -- namely, those who are integrated into society and do not have criminal records -- should have greater access to government resources.
The question of equal access to education has factored heavily into the debate over immigration. The California and Illinois DREAM Acts effectively take the opposite position from a tough new Alabama immigration law, derided by critics as unnecessarily strict and discriminatory, that requires schools to verify the immigration status of both new students and their parents.