Chicago's new Mayor Rahm Emanuel supports the DREAM Act


Rahm Emanuel is Chicago's new mayor.

The mayor has made a move that should please many Latino voters.

He appeared at a press conference Friday with immigration advocates from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights who support the DREAM Act. This is federal legislation that would help undocumented youth who came before the age of 16 legalize their status if they complete two years of college or military service.

Emanuel also is behind state proposed legislation for an Illinois DREAM Act that would help undocumented students pay for college.

The mayor's support of this immigration issue is symbolically important since some immigration advocates have accused him in the past of not being supportive enough of immigration reform.

The truth is Emanuel can't play a role as mayor of Chicago in passing state or federal laws. But he can be an influential voice.

He also can make sure Chicago stays a sanctuary city, which prevents city employees from police officers to school teachers from asking people about their immigration status.

He should continue the policy of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who has long been a supporter of immigrants rights. It was the late Mayor Harold Washington who first issued an executive order in 1985 declaring Chicago a "sanctuary city" for undocumented immigrants. That was reaffirmed by Daley and it became a city law in 2006.

I don't expect Emanuel to change this policy especially since his former boss, President Barack Obama, just made a major speech on immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border last week.

Emanuel may now be trying to reach out to the Latino voters who did not vote for him. Most Latino wards went for former City Clerk Miguel del Valle or former schools and city colleges chief Gery Chico.

"If we keep the pressure up, keep our voices loud, we will pass the Illinois Dream Act," Emanuel said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times article by Abdon Pallasch. "It's only fitting that ... on the issue of immigration reform, Illinois does not follow the path that some are beating toward what Arizona has done, Passing the Illinois Dream Act, we will show the country a different path."

The Illinois DREAM Act also has the support of many other local and state officials, including Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Many college presidents across the country support the DREAM Act, including the president of Harvard University, and locally the president of DePaul University and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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