Immigration Roundup: Illinois Signs DREAM Act Into Law, Federal Gov't Prepares to Sue Alabama

Since Arizona’s passage of SB 1070 caused a frenzy last year (and was later ruled unconstitutional), it seems as though the topic of immigration has remained in the headlines and will likely stay a hot button issue until at least the 2012 election.  Some states have made headlines with their own efforts to pass immigration laws or—on the other end of the spectrum—pass their own versions of the DREAM Act.

In Illinois governor Pat Quinn signed a law yesterday that gives undocumented students access to private scholarships for college and allows them to enroll in college saving programs run by the state. 

California Signs Version of DREAM Act Into Law

The bill, which will not draw its scholarship funding from taxpayers’ dollars, is completely voluntary and will set up a public commission to raise money from private donors.  According to State Rep. Eddie Acevedo, the fund will not be limited to undocumented immigrants – but to all immigrants.  Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s mayor, shared his views on the bill’s passage. 

“This is an opportunity to put your roots down, to give your children and your family a new chapter to begin,” he said, “and it starts with the most important thing you can do, an education.” Immigrants are Illinois’ fastest growing population. Before the fund can officially raise money, Quinn has to appoint the Dream Act commission.

Parts of Georgia’s Immigration Laws Go Into Effect

Meanwhile in Alabama, President Obama’s administration has filed a federal lawsuit in an attempt to block enforcement of the state’s harsh new immigration law, Reuters reports.  The law titled H.B. 56 is due to take effect on Sept. 1 and, according to the news agency, is widely considered to be the toughest measure in the country to try to decrease illegal immigration. 

The law adds a list of requirements, one of which is public schools having to determine the legal residency status of students upon enrollment, which can be discovered by reviewing each student’s birth certificate.  In addition, the law imposes penalties on businesses that knowingly employ someone without legal resident status and requires police officials to detain someone they suspect of being in the United States illegally if the person cannot provide proper documentation when stopped.

U.S. Justice Department Sues Arizona

Lawyers behind the administration say that if H.B. 56 goes into effect, the law “enforcement scheme will conflict with and undermine the federal government’s careful balance of immigration enforcement priorities and objectives.”  Alabama isn’t the only state that is defending new immigration laws in federal courts.  In addition to the southern state, Georgia, Arizona, Utah and Indiana are also in a similar situation.

For more information on immigration laws state by state, check out our map.