Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday signed the Illinois DREAM Act to make scholarships available to undocumented high school students via a private Illinois fund.
The DREAM Act, sponsored by state Senate President John Cullerton, also encourages high school counselors and college admissions officers to be trained on educational opportunities for immigrant youths.
Quinn called the act "historic legislation" that aims to increase opportunities for children of immigrants in Illinois. “All children have the right to a first-class education,” Quinn said in a statement.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who attended the signing, used the event to call out Chicago's forthcoming Office of New Americans. Emanuel said the office's launch will help make Chicago "the most immigrant-friendly city in the world."
“Immigrants are a driving force in our city’s cultural and economic life, and opening the way for all Chicago students to earn an excellent higher education will make our city even stronger," Emanuel said in a statement.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who was invited to the signing, was called to Washington for a debt vote.
"I am disappointed that I missed the opportunity," Gutierrez said. "I was really looking forward to it."
"Because our immigration system has been in a shambles for almost three decades, individual states and localities are having to pick up the pieces," he said. "Illinois has been and continues to be visionary in its approach to including immigrants into the fabric of our communities.
Quinn called the bill one of his top priorities of the spring legislative session.
“It’s important to understand that Illinois has to be a welcoming society here in the 21st century [for] everybody with nobody left out, and that’s really what this bill stands for,” Quinn told WBBM radio Monday morning.
The Illinois DREAM Act won't cost Illinois taxpayers anything, Quinn reiterated.