DREAM Act to ignite support days before bill receives vote

The issue of immigration reform has rallied popular support after months of stagnation and collecting dust behind closed doors. Several supporters of immigrant protection laws, including University President Michael Hogan, will attend a rally in Chicago this Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m to support the Illinois DREAM Act.

On May 4, incumbents in the Illinois Senate will vote on the Illinois DREAM Act, which provides undocumented students will opportunities for education and a means of identification.

Confirmed guests include University President Hogan, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and President of the Senate John Cullerton. Invited guests include Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel and Rep. Michael Madigan.

The latest registration update indicates 1,300 people will be attending the rally, according to Jose Sanchez, president of La Colectiva and junior in LAS. Over 270 people have confirmed on Facebook that they will be attending the rally as well.

“What this means to me is people are excited about this, and people really want to push for legislation on a state level,” Sanchez said. “This means the community is really getting behind undocumented people, and it’s something we’re just beginning to fight for. So I’m excited to see what the next few months are going to bring.”

Buses from UIC, DePaul, Northwestern, Loyola, U of I and U Chicago are available and will shuttle students to and from St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church, 62nd and Lawndale in Chicago.

About 50 students are expected to fill the bus departing from the U of I at 7:30 a.m. The roundtrip fee is $10.

“We have 40 people so far,” said Jesse Hoyt, La Colectiva member and senior in LAS. “We’re definitely expecting at least 50 students going from the bus alone, and we got other students making their way there on their own.”

Hoyt said he expects the pews of the church to be packed tomorrow because the event has many keynote speakers.

“We’re gonna be packing the pews,” Hoyt said. “Basically, the turnout for this thing is going to be massive. Because there are a lot of keynote speakers a lot of people are going to attend to hear what they’re going to say as well as show support for the different bills. There are two issues we’re fighting for: the Illinois Dream Act and Smart Enforcement Act

The rally for tomorrow will encompass three major talking points under the Dream Act, Sanchez said.

First, it will encourage high school counselors to provide resources to undocumented students. The regular training will help counselors understand education opportunities available for immigrant youths. Secondly, the bill will create a privately-funded scholarship, which undocumented students can access, That way, immigrant youths coming from households below the poverty line can have an opportunity to pay for tuition. Lastly, the bill will provide driving certification to undocumented students so they can have permit and an identification card, reducing the number of uninsured drivers.

In tandem with the Dream Act, the Smart Enforcement Act is also under consideration.

“Basically (the Smart Enforcement Act) allows counties to opt out of secure communities that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department put together,” Sanchez said. “ICE agents speak to different county sheriffs. They give presentation to local counties about collecting all these extra information about arrested immigrant criminals. It helps ICE stream line the process and allows them to know when there are being undocumented people being held in jail, which speeds up the deportation process.”

The Smart Enforcement bill allows communities like Champaign County that currently follow the secure communities code to opt out of it.

“We’ve seen a number of families torn apart by this,” Sanchez said. “Many of the legislators didn’t even know (Champaign County’s criminals) were under review because it was an agreement between Champaign County police officers.”

He added that by passing this bill Champaign County wll be able to “opt out of this legislation that target immigrants.”

The rally is expected to receive strong support from the community, Sanchez said.

“I think it’s going to be a fantastic event,” Sanchez said. “I think the politicians are going to see strong support from people who really want to see these bills passed. On top of that, University students will see their president speak about this incredibly important issue, and the president will see the kind of momentum behind this movement.”

The Dream Act and Smart Enforcement Act both have been drafted in the past few months, and they’ve been presented to a lot of legislators in passing or behind closed doors, Sanchez said.

“It’s something that’s new but something that’s needed because the people are getting behind it, and they’re coming out in large numbers in support of this,” he added.