Thousands of undocumented students jumped of joy last August 1st, when Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law the Dream Act Illinois. Finally, they believed, they would be able to achieve their dreams of going to college without having to worry about their immigration status and their tuition. The new legislative measure was designed to provide them with scholarships, access to savings plans for higher education and prepaid tuition programs. So far, though, nothing has been done.
The new law calls for the creation of a nine-member Illinois Dream Fund (IDF) Commission, an organization charged with raising money for these students. Gov. Quinn named seven members last month. The state is still looking for two more. Those seven commissioners haven’t met yet, seemingly because of time conflicts and a lack of communication among them. Some commission members have expressed frustration about it. To make matters worse, according to commissioner Tanya Cabrera, with the Illinois Institute of Technology, they won’t be able to raise funds unless the IDF is registered as a non-profit organization (501-c3 status). They also need a pro bono attorney to take care of the paper work. Besides, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission has to supervise everything the IDF members do. Oh, they also need an office! The state is not going to give them any workspace.
What is the State of Illinois saying?
Denise Martinez, with the Governor’s Office, says, “The reason for the delay has been due to its unique structure. It’s not a state commission. It’s autonomous. That’s why it’s taking some time.” Martinez points out “there is no precedent for this commission. It is the first of its kind in the nation.” That is true! But it’s also true that if the state doesn’t apply some pressure to expedite the process, those undocumented students, in some cases, would have to wait years to receive any help. Martinez hopes the commission will meet by the end of the month. “The goal is to (award scholarships) for the upcoming year,” she says.
Who besides the students should care?
I called Rep. Eddie Acevedo (2nd Dist), main sponsor of the Dream Act in the Illinois House, to ask his thoughts about the delay, but he did not reply to my messages. He must be busy campaigning to get reelected.
“I’m not going to venture an opinion,” says Fred Tsao, policy director with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refuge Rights. “We put the legislation together to better serve the immigrant children of Illinois.” At the same time, ICIRR should question the red tape wrapped around this “dream law.” I’m sure hundreds, if not thousands of immigrant students will be graduating from high school in a few months, and they won’t be able to attend colleges and universities in the state because the implementation of the Dream Act Illinois has moved very slowly.
When the law was signed at the Benito Juárez High School in Pilsen, last summer, Artemio Arreola, with ICIRR, told me that about 95,000 students could benefit from the measure. So far, it’s been none. Keep dreaming for another school year!