ICIRR Details Devastating Effects of Proposed Cuts

March 4, 2015

ICIRR Details Devastating Effects of Proposed Cuts

Report Shows Harm to Immigrants, Organizations, and Economy


(Chicago, March 4, 2015) – Last year, Guadalupe Vavalle heard from an outreach volunteer from Mujeres Latinas en Accion, a Chicago-based organization that helps immigrants here improve their lives. Ms. Vavalle is a Mexican immigrant, one of many throughout Illinois. The volunteer gave her information about citizenship: its benefits, the requirements to apply, and the workshops that would help her get ready. With the promise of access to a better life—median earnings for citizens outpace those of noncitizens by as much as $20,000 per year—she became highly motivated and attended Mujeres’ February 2014 citizenships workshop.

Ms. Vavalle took her citizenship exam that summer, and three weeks later she took the US citizenship oath. That fall, she found a full-time job at the Mexican Consulate providing health counseling. And now she is paying it forward: she enrolled in Mujeres’ 20-week Latina Leadership program, learning the skills to promote citizenship and immigrant rights. Citizenship has given her access to better jobs, better wages, the full protections of the law, and the opportunity to give back. Her journey from striving immigrant to securely employed citizen is a story of the American Dream: the success that comes from dedication and hard work—and also from a little help from those who came before.

“I am so grateful to Mujeres--without them, I don’t know if I would have earned my citizenship, which has led to so many other good changes in my life,” Ms. Vavalle said. “I want others to have the same opportunities, but the Governor’s budget would make that impossible.”

Ms. Vavalle’s is just one of the many success stories represented in “The Devastating Impact of Defunding Immigration Services,” a report released Wednesday by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) that details the impact of Governor Rauner’s proposed elimination of funding for immigrant services. Just .01% of the state budget—$6.67 million per year—the Immigrant Services Line Item (ISLI) funds investments in Illinois’s immigrant communities and provides for a cost-effective means of fulfilling the State’s legal obligations for language-appropriate services. The Governor’s proposed budget, combined with his suspension last week of all “non-essential” grants, would have a deeply deleterious impact on Illinois’s immigrant communities, and, as the report shows, permanent cuts would damage the state’s economy and future fiscal health.

“Cutting investments which promise five-fold returns is no way to solve the state’s problems—it will only exacerbate them,” said Lawrence Benito, CEO of ICIRR. “We need to continue investing in immigrant communities all over the state. This isn’t a partisan issue, nor is it one that pits big cities against the rest of the state: immigrants live and work in red and blue districts alike, all over Illinois. We simply cannot afford to lose the work that these investments have funded. We hope the Governor and the General Assembly will recognize the facts and keep this funding in place.”

Through ICIRR and its partner organizations, ISLI primarily funds two priorities. The first is the Immigrant Family Resource Program (IFRP), which engages immigrant serving agencies to help the State to fulfill its legal obligations to provide language-appropriate services by providing information and assistance, including interpretation and translation, to families interacting with state agencies. The Rauner Administration has not announced a plan to replace those services, leaving our State vulnerable to costly litigation and the loss of federal matching funding. The second program, the New Americans Initiative (NAI), promotes US citizenship and provides citizenship application assistance to people like Ms. Vavalle.

Additionally, ISLI funds are critical to ensuring that Illinois immigrant-serving organizations have the capacity to provide a variety of other services, including sexual assault and healthcare counseling. And soon, these organizations will be helping Illinois immigrants sign up for the protections created by President Obama’s executive actions. While those programs are on hold due to a federal court case, Illinois cannot afford to delay preparations while that case is being heard—on average, those who leave undocumented status add nearly $2,000 to their annual incomes, increasing their spending power and the State’s tax revenues.

The report includes the results of a survey of immigrant-serving organizations in Illinois, as well as detailed analysis of the work done by those organizations and the effects the proposed cuts would have on them. Several key points emerge:

  • More than three quarters of the organizations surveyed would be unable to continue providing IFRP and NAI services in the event of a full cut of ISLI monies. Three organizations said they would have to cease all programming.
  •  Immigrant-serving organizations in Illinois are small—one third of those surveyed employ seven or fewer full-time employees—and they stretch every dollar. Nonetheless, their small sizes make them especially vulnerable to diminishing funds.
  •  More than half of the organizations would have to lay off staff and 68% would have to reduce staff hours in the event these cuts are made. Illinois’s immigrant-serving organizations rely on state funding to make their work possible: nearly eight in ten of the organizations fund up to 30% their staff with state investments; some smaller organizations use state funds to enable 100% of their positions.

“With these cuts, we would be turning our backs not just on hard-working immigrants who may need help bettering their lives, but also on over $160 million in State revenue over five years,” said Juan Salgado, executive director of Instituto del Progreso Latino and former ICIRR board president. “In addition, at least 229 people stand to lose their jobs, and with them the wages from which they contribute to our economy and Illinois’s fiscal health. From the standpoint of supporting Illinois’s return to sound budgeting, these cuts make no sense.” Through its participation in both NAI and IFRP, Instituto has assisted thousands of immigrants on Chicago’s southwest side in moving toward citizenship and self-sufficiency.


Of ICIRR’s 60 partner organizations, 48 are funded for NAI, and 38 are funded for the program for language-appropriate services. Twenty-six organizations participate in both programs. These agencies reflect the broad range of immigrant communities in Illinois, both in terms of countries of origin and languages as well as their new home communities throughout our state:

Albany Park Community Center

Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE)

Americans by Value

Arab American Action Network

Arab American Family Services

Black Hawk College (Quad Cities)

Bosnian Herzegovinian American Community Center

Brighton Park Neighborhood Council

Cambodian Association of Illinois

Casa Guanajuato Quad Cities

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago

Centro de Informacion (Elgin)

Centro De Trabajados Unidos

Centro Romero

Chinese American Service League

Chinese Mutual Aid Association

Community Health Partnership of Illinois (central Illinois)

East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center

Erie Neighborhood House

Enlace Chicago

Expressions of Faith

Family Focus-Aurora

Federacion de Clubes Michoacanos

Fr. Gary Graf Center (Most Blessed Trinity) (Waukegan)

Hanul Family Alliance

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) Chicago

Hispanic American Community Education and Services (HACES) (Waukegan)

Immigration Project (Bloomington, serving central and southern Illinois)

Indo-American Center

Instituto del Progreso Latino

Interfaith Leadership Project

Iraqi Mutual Aid Society

Korean American Community Services

Korean American Resource and Cultural Center

La Voz Latina (Rockford)

Latino Organization of the Southwest

Logan Square Neighborhood Association

Mano a Mano Family Resource Center (Round Lake)

Mujeres Latinas en Accion

Muslim Women Resource Center

Omni Youth Services

Polish American Association

Puentes de Esperanza (East St. Louis)

Quad City Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees


Rock Valley College (Rockford)

Saint Anthony Hospital

South-East Asia Center

Southwest Organizing Project

Southwestern Illinois College (Belleville)

The Resurrection Project

Township High School District 214 Community Education

United African Organization

University YMCA (Champaign-Urbana)

Vietnamese Association of Illinois

West Suburban Action Project (PASO)

World Relief - Chicago

World Relief - Moline

World Relief DuPage/Aurora

Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley


The report is available on the ICIRR website.

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.