Rauner Budget Eliminates Immigrant Services

February 18, 2015

Rauner Budget Eliminates Immigrant Services 

Cuts to key programs and agencies would hurt underserved communities
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s proposed state budget would entirely eliminate funding for immigrant services.  The following is the statement of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR):

Less than three weeks ago, Governor Rauner told hundreds of immigrant leaders at our Immigrant Integration Summit that he supported them and the work of community organizations to help immigrants build better lives in the US.  His proposed budget, however, would severely hinder the ability of these organizations to carry on their work. 

At $6.67 million, the Immigrant Services Line Item (ISLI) within the Illinois Department of Human Services budget makes up less than .01% of total state budget.  ISLI funds two major programs:

  • The Immigrant Family Resource Program provides information and assistance to families interacting with state agencies as they work toward self-sufficiency.  The program engages immigrant serving agencies to help IDHS fulfill its legal obligations to provide language-appropriate services.  Over the past 12 years it has connected more than 500,000 immigrants to vital safety net services and helped them navigate the challenging process of integration.
  • The New Americans Initiative brings together immigrant serving organizations to promote US citizenship and provide citizenship application assistance.  The program has helped more than 96,000 immigrants with their applications since 2005.  Immigrants who become US citizens earn on average $7000 more per year than noncitizens, and pay more in taxes.

Organizations that receive ISLI grants already operate on thin margins and stretch their funding to serve their clients.  Yet Governor Rauner is proposing to eliminate this line item, leaving many immigrant families without key services, and in some cases forcing immigrant serving agencies to shut down, leaving wider gaps in already underserved communities. 

This cut is particularly ill-timed because many ISLI grantees are the same agencies where immigrants will turn for assistance with the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program.  While a federal judge has temporarily blocked these programs, we expect that this ruling to be overturned and these programs will proceed, allowing as many as 280,000 Illinois immigrants to stay in the US without fear of deportation and to work, earn, and contribute more in taxes, helping to solve the State’s revenue shortfall. Governor Rauner himself called the programs a “great start” after they were announced last November, yet his budget would stall them in Illinois.

“The governor’s budget staff does not realize that this line item represents not state social service but an investment of state funds that returns nearly $5 on each dollar,” said ICIRR CEO Lawrence Benito.  With the Immigrant Services Line Item, which accounts for just .01% of its budget, Illinois can generate an additional $160 million in revenues over five years. Helping immigrants gain self-sufficiency and move toward citizenship enables them to earn more and contribute more to the state’s economy.”

ICIRR is furthermore concerned about proposed cuts to other services for immigrant communities, including a $1.5 billion cut to Medicaid, elimination of the parent mentor program, and other cuts. We urge the Illinois General Assembly to restore funding for the Immigrant Services Line Item and other crucial services that help immigrants work, earn, and fully participate in the life of our state.

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is a statewide coalition of more than 130 organizations dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society. For more information, visit www.icirr.org.