Community Celebrates as Governor Signs In-State Tuition Bill Into Law
Chicago, IL- Hundreds gathered at Benito Juarez Community Academy to watch the making of history in Illinois on Sunday. Governor Blagojevich, with over 50 immigrant students looking on, signed the bill that would allow all Illinois students to attend public colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates, regardless of their immigration status.
Jeff Bartow, President of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights said, „Today is a great day for Illinois. Illinois has opened up its heart to all immigrant children. We have shown that we understand that this is a nation of immigrants, and that the hard work of immigrant children, both documented and undocumented, will be rewarded with a shot at a good education and the American Dream.”
House Bill 60 will allow students who have attended school in Illinois for at least three years and have graduated from an Illinois high school to pay the in-state tuition rate for all Illinois public institutions of higher education.
„I’m where I am today because I was allowed to pursue the American Dream. My immigrant parents worked hard so I could get an education and make a contribution to my community,” Blagojevich said. „All of our young people should have the same opportunity regardless of their immigrant status.”
The bill’s passage had overwhelming bipartisan support in the Illinois General Assembly with a total vote of 178-5. Similar legislation has passed in six other states: California, Texas, New York, Utah, Washington, and Oklahoma. Illinois will proudly join them as the seventh state to enact such a law.
Raul Raymundo, Executive Director of The Resurrection Project in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood said, „We should be proud that Democrats and Republicans joined together to allow these students a shot at their own futures. The students living in our community will now have a greater opportunity to reach their goals. And this is not just for the Latino community, kids all over the state of Illinois and from all backgrounds-Poles, Koreans, Pakistanis and Nigerians-will benefit.”
Many elected officials were present to visit with the community and join in the celebration of this historic day. State Representative Edward Acevedo and State Senator Antonio Muñoz, primary sponsors of the bill, were there to witness the signing of the bill within their own district, at the largest high school in the
thriving Latino neighborhood of Pilsen.
„We are creating a future for some of Illinois’ brightest kids,” said State Representative Edward Acevedo
(D-Chicago). „They, in turn, will give back to Illinois. The returns on this investment will be huge.”
State Senator Antonio Muñoz (D-Chicago) said, „Now immigrant youth won’t have to miss the boat to a better future. These students will be able to ride the wave of higher education towards sharper minds, better jobs, and ultimately stronger communities.”
But the proudest people of the day were to be the students themselves, many of which traveled from across the state to see the signing of the bill firsthand. Many had been involved its passage, participating in the democratic process by talking to their legislators and organizing other students who could be affected.
„I’ve been given a chance here,” said Sandra, a student from Chicago. „A chance at a real future with real opportunities. Today I know that if I work hard enough, college will be an option I can use to fulfill my goals and aspirations.”
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
36 S. Wabash, suite 1425
Chicago, IL 60603
Founded in 1986, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) is an alliance of more than
120 public and private organizations advocating with and on behalf of immigrants and refugees throughout Illinois. Its mission is to promote the full and equal participation of immigrants and refugees in the political, civic, and economic life of our diverse society.