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The Illinois Dream Act Offers Undocumented Immigrants Financial Aid for College: A Chicago Immigration Attorney’s Perspective.


Pro-immigrant advocates secured a victory for undocumented immigrants when the Illinois Senate passed the Senate Bill 2185, the DREAM Act. But let us be clear about what the DREAM ACT does and does not do. Unlike the Proposed Federal DREAM Act legislation, the Illinois version is NOT an immigration bill. It grants no immigration benefits to undocumented students, nor does it lead to any path to citizenship. It does not permit visas, or green cards or driving licenses to undocumented students, and does not provide scholarships with public funds. What the Illinois DREAM Act does is provide scholarships that are funded entirely from private contributions for undocumented students. [Note, as an immigration lawyer, I prefer the word “undocumented” and never use the phrase “illegal immigrants”] In order to be eligible for the DREAM Act program, the student must be a resident of Illinois, be enrolled or planning to attend colleges, and must have a federal taxpayer identification number proving that they work and pay taxes.

A popular misconception is that undocumented immigrants currently cannot attend college because they do not have social security numbers. This is not true, and in fact, since 2003, Illinois in-state tuition law has allowed undocumented students to attend Illinois colleges at the same lower in-state tuition rates as other Illinois residents, as long as they resided with a parent or guardian for three years while attending and graduating from a public or private high school in this state. The applicant must also provide the university with an affidavit stating that the individual will file and application to become a permanent resident of the United States as soon as he or she is legally able to do so. Illinois, to its credit, was one of the first states to allow undocumented students access to in-state tuition at Illinois Colleges. Today’s local version of the DREAM Act continues in that tradition and extends to these young residents of the state a means of financial aid to get there.

The Kalita Law Group, PC specializes in family immigration issues. We keep a close watch on all pending local, state and federal legislation that affects immigrants and foreign nationals living in this country, and we are always prepared to counsel and guide clients through new laws and procedures as they are implemented.