Illinois gave the nation a double whammy of good news when it became the first state to notify the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday that it would be ending Secure Communities across the state. The Illinois Senate also advanced the state's DREAM Act, which would provide more educational opportunities and aid to the state's residents, regardless of their immigration status.
Yesterday Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn notified federal officials that his state would no longer participate in the fingerprint-sharing program that resulted in the deportation of 72,000 people across the country last year.
"With this termination of the memorandum of agreement, Illinois State Police will play no role in Secure Communities, either actively or as a pass-through for information," Quinn said.
Quinn's letter follows months of growing state-level resistance against the supposedly voluntary program, which the Obama administration has sold to the public as a targeted deportation only for serious offenders. The reality was that a small minority of those deported from the country had ever been convicted of a serious crime. Illinois suspended its Secure Communities involvement in November to conduct a review of the program. In his Wednesday letter, Quinn pointed out that fully 30 percent of those who had been removed from the country had never been convicted of any crime whatsoever.
"During the suspension, we voiced our concerns to ICE and asked them to prove that Secure Communities can and will be implemented as agreed to," Quinn's office said in a statement. "After review, we were not satisfied and determined that ICE's ongoing implementation of Secure Communities is flawed."
"ICE's goal is to enhance public safety by removing those illegally in our country who are also breaking criminal laws," said ICE Spokesperson Nicole Navas, Deportation Nation reported. "ICE will work with the State of Illinois to meet that goal."
The Department of Homeland Security has been scrambling to get its message straight after months of inconsistent communication and backtracking to states about the supposedly voluntary program. In April, California Rep. Zoe Lofgren demanded an investigation into DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and DHS Director John Morton over what she called "dishonest" communication about the program. In August, the Department of Homeland Security told Lofgren that counties that wished to opt out of the program simply had to let DHS know. But counties that attempted to exercise that option were blocked. Now, Napolitano says, Secure Communities is not and was never an optional program.
Meanwhile, the Illinois Senate passed the state's DREAM Act with a strong bipartisan majority on Wednesday. The bill seeks to amend current law so that Illinois "residents," and not just "citizens" may access the state's college savings program. It would also create a privately financed fund of scholarships for undocumented undergrad students, and would create a DREAM commission to administer the fund and support students as they make their way through school. The bill would also require high school counselors to get trained on dealing with the unique hurdles that undocumented immigrants face while trying to get their education.
Illinois currently allows state residents who've graduated from Illinois high schools to pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities. Because undocumented immigrants are barred from accessing any kind of federal aid, including loans and grants, paying for school is one of the biggest hurdles undocumented immigrants face while trying to get their education.
The bill now moves to the House.