The Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) hosts a powerful immigration rally at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church

On Saturday, April 30th, over a thousand student, business, community, and religious leaders from around Illinois packed St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church, a member institution of the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), in support of the IL Dream Act, Smart Enforcement Act, the Immigrant Services Line Item and a fair legislative map that reflects immigrant communities.

SWOP, together with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights(ICIRR), organized the action which brought both Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton together in support of the new legislation and immigrant services. Senator Cullerton is the sponsor of the IL Dream Act, which would create private scholarships for undocumented students and provide training for high school counselors to better assist undocumented students continue their education.

Southwest side State Representative Dan Burke, who is the sponsor the Smart Enforcement Act, also attended the action along with State Representative Edward Acevedo and Senate William Delgado. The Smart Enforcement Act would track the local impact and costs of so-called “Secure Communities” programs, which requires local police to act as immigration enforcement agents. The Smart Enforcement Act would also allow counties to opt out of the program and would bar spending state resources on detaining and deporting non-criminal immigrants. This legislation would allow law enforcement to focus on catching serious criminals and prevent many innocent families from being separated.

Throughout the action at St Nicholas, community leaders passionately shared their testimonies to each issue. Carolina Rivera, SWOP leader from Talman Elementary School, spoke directly to Speaker Madigan and Senator Cullerton regarding the nightmare that families go through because of local police acting as immigration agents and asked the two powerful politicians for their support on the Smart Enforcement Act.

The event came at an opportune time with the IL Dream Act coming up for a vote four days later. The dream act, which had already passed the Illinois House, was passed in the Illinois Senate on Wednesday, May 4th by a vote of 45 for and 11 against.

A group of SWOP leaders traveled down to Springfield to witness the vote. Immigrant rights supporters won a second victory that day when Governor Quinn signed an order terminating participation in Secure Communities in Illinois.The Smart Enforcement Act passed in the house 66-43 vote on Friday, May 6th and is waiting action in the Illinois Senate.