Emanuel's "New Americans Agenda" wouldn't provide children brought to the U.S. illegally a path to citizenship, but it would help them pay for college.
"The number one prohibitive reason people don't go to college is cost," Emanuel said Thursday during an interview with Telemundo Chicago. "So I want to take a part of the DREAM Act, which Sen. (Richard) Durbin introduced, and make Chicago the first city in the country to adopt a Chicago DREAM Act."
In Emanuel's plan, the following criteria must be met in order for a would-be student to obtain DREAM status:
- Moved to Chicago before the age of 16...
- Resided in Chicago for at least five consecutive years prior to applicatoin for DREAM Status...
- Be a student in good standing at an elementary or high school in Chicago -- public, private or religious...
- Be between the ages of 12 and 25 at the time of application...
- Be a law-abiding Chicagoan.
He said it would be key to maintain confidentiality on documentation status to allow young immigrants better opportunities.
To pay for it, Emanuel said he hopes to gather $5 million from business and civic leaders to share among those in need.
Emanuel has taken some criticism for what some immigrants believe is his failure to lobby harder for the federal bill -- The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act -- which was ultimately defeated in the U.S. Senate last month.
"This is a cynical straight-up pander that isn't backed up by a commitment," said Brooke Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Gery Chico campaign. "Voters should choose their candidate based on their record. When Rahm was in a position to push substantive immigration change, he took a pass."
To the Miguel del Valle campaign, Emanuel's plan amounts to little more than "political games."
"Emanuel stole Miguel's ideas," said Del Valle spokeswoman Alejandra Moran.
Moran said Del Valle put forth the same ideas during a meeting on Jan. 7 with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
Del Valle's plan, however, would offer scholarships to students, rather than just the loans that Emanuel has proposed, said Moran.
Should Chicago be the first city in the country to grant this status to its young immigrants, it's believed other cities would follow rather than waiting for the federal government.