UPDATED 08/01/11 4:37 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Two months after the Illinois DREAM Act passed the General Assembly, Gov. Pat Quinn signed it into law Monday.READ MORE: Navy Veteran Had Stroke In Costa Rica, And Now He's Stranded As Family Tries To Pay Five-Figure Medical Bills
Quinn signed the bill at Benito Juarez High School, 2150 S. Laflin St., in front of a crowd of immigrant rights activists. In signing the bill, he evoked the memory of the statesman the school honors, 19th century Mexican president and liberal reformer Benito Juarez.
“I think it is a special day; a historic day; a landmark day where we in Illinois, the land of Lincoln – who lived in the very same time as Benito Juarez – we say to all the people of our country and our state, we want everybody in and nobody left out,” Quinn said.
Education is key, and should not be denied to anyone, Quinn said.
“We definitely believe in education. Education is the key to opportunity in a democracy. We want well-educated people all across our state,” he said. “The only way to do it is to roll up our sleeves and work hard from beginning, from birth on.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former city Clerk Miguel Del Valle were also present as Quinn signed the bill.
“As the son and the grandson of immigrants, everybody comes to America for the promise of America; for the family, and our most precious resource – our children – and that promise is realized by education here in the United States,” Emanuel said.
Youth leader and immigrant rights activist Arianna Salgado attended Proviso Math and Science Academy in Forest Park as an undocumented immigrant. Before Quinn signed the bill, Salgado related her experience.
“I thought about my junior and senior year, and how I struggled to get information on how to continue with my higher education,” she said. “My junior year in high school, I walked into my counselor’s office, and I told her that I wanted to go to college, but I was undocumented. She told me that going to college was going to be impossible, since I don’t qualify for financial aid. I felt frustrated.”READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Arctic Blast Coming Late Tuesday Night
Thus, Salgado led a mobilization to fight for the DREAM Act, which was urgent not only for the undocumented students, but for the parents “who have sacrificed everything to make sure that we achieved our dreams.”
WBBM Newsradio 780’s Mary Frances Bragiel reports on Sunday, in between the food and carnival rides, some people at Fiesta del Sol in the Pilsen neighborhood were eager to learn more about the DREAM Act.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mary Frances Bragiel reports
“To be honest with you, I didn’t know about it, but if he’s signing that, that will help him get the scholarship, I’m all for it,” one woman said.
The act will allow for students to obtain financial assistance from a fund created through private donations. It will also allow families of students to participate in the state’s college tuition savings programs.
Sam Ville says it’s all about dreams.
“If you’ve got kids going to school, you get them off the streets, so eventually – I think it’s all connected at one point,” he said.
Critics say the act wrongly helps people who violate immigration laws.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform says there are more than 56,000 undocumented students in Illinois schools grades K-12.
In a statement, FAIR said in part that the Illinois DREAM Act is a “slap in the face to hard-working, law-abiding families all across Illinois who are struggling to make sure their own kids have the resources they need to go to college.”MORE NEWS: View Live Radar
“The Illinois Legislature and Gov. Quinn are helping to create new benefits for illegal aliens,” the group said.