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Dream Fund scholarship could be available for more students

Ulises Sanchez wasn’t able to get an Illinois Dream Fund scholarship last year because the program ran out of money.

Illinois_Dream_FundSanchez, 23, of Chicago was one of 1,437 students who applied, but couldn’t get it. He also tried again this year.

He is one of the undocumented students who might get aid, if a new law is passed requiring all Illinois residents to pay one penny from each dollar they send to any country outside the United States. All money raised from the fee would be given to the Illinois Dream Fund.

A total of 36 Dream Fund scholarships – worth $100,000 — were awarded in 2013. It was the first time the scholarships were given to undocumented students who wanted to attend two to four year public and private schools in Illinois.

“I’m about to graduate, and my parents wouldn’t be able to help me anymore since my youngest brother is graduating from high school,” said Sánchez, a junior at University of Illinois at Chicago.

Sánchez is studying anthropology while he works as an emergency medical technician to make money to pay for college. If he does not receive a scholarship this year, he will have to work more hours, which will delay his graduation, he said.

Each semester Sánchez has to pay $7,000 in tuition, and he cannot get financial aid because of his immigrant status. After graduating, he hopes to attend medical school, but he knows a Dream Fund scholarship will not be available because they are not offered to graduate students.

Sanchez said if he can become a doctor, he will give back to the program.

“I will return the help the community gives me,” he said.

Some Illinois residents say they support the program.

“I don’t think [a penny] is a lot,” said Francisco Flores, who has been sending $100 to $200 to his parents to Mexico monthly for 15 years. “And if it’s for a good cause, I don’t mind doing it.”

Flores, 30, an undocumented immigrant, said he never went to college because of a lack of help and benefits in Illinois.

Rigoberto Padilla, a member of the Illinois Dream Fund Commission, said the bill is a good idea. The Dream Fund doesn’t have money to award all students.

“Any help is good,” Padilla said.

Hernandez is working to move the bill out of the House Rules Committee. However, her proposal is drawing opposition from some Illinois residents.

Kristen Williamson, press secretary for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), said the Illinois legislature was misguided in creating the Illinois Dream Fund in the first place.

She said citizens and legal residents of Illinois are struggling to finance their higher education, yet the state continues to enact laws to aid undocumented students.

“Illinois residents would be better served by lawmakers who actually addressed the interests of voters, rather than those who have no legal right to be in the U.S.,” Williamson said.

Although Illinois is the only state that has this program, supporters of the program in Illinois have noted that California, New Mexico, Texas and Washington allow undocumented students to obtain state financial aid for college.

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