ICIRR Calls for Immediate Reinstatement of Immigrant Services Funding

July 12, 2015

ICIRR Calls for Immediate Reinstatement of Immigrant Services Funding

Rauner Administration Suspension Will Harm Immigrant Communities and Illinois Economy

On Friday afternoon, April 3, the Illinois Department of Human Services suspended funding for Immigrant Services Line Item programs, effectively immediately.  The following is the statement of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR)

ICIRR is outraged at the Rauner Administration’s unilateral decision to halt immigrant services programs, a penny-wise but pound-foolish move that will devastate immigrant communities and the organizations that serve them and deny our state much-needed tax revenue.  On January 31, Governor Bruce Rauner stood before hundreds of immigrant leaders at ICIRR's immigrant integration summit at Richard J. Daley College and stated his commitment to support our state’s immigrant communities.  Yet his proposed budget for state fiscal year 2016 zeroes out funding for immigrant services. And now his administration has suspended the program for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which runs through June.

The Immigrant Services Line Item (ISLI), which at $6.67 million comprises only .01% of the total state budget, funds two major programs:

•           The Immigrant Family Resource Program (IFRP) engages immigrant-serving agencies to help IDHS fulfill its legal obligations to provide language-appropriate services to families interacting with state agencies as they work toward self-sufficiency.
•           The New Americans Initiative (NAI) brings together immigrant-serving organizations to promote US citizenship and provide citizenship application assistance.

 

These programs have each assisted hundreds of thousands of Illinois immigrants on their path to making greater contributions to our state. Immigrants who receive assistance from the 61 community organizations funded by ISLI have found better jobs, started businesses, and given back in multiple ways to our state.  Since median earnings for naturalized citizens in our state outpace those of noncitizens by as much as $20,000 per year, ISLI is a key investment in our state’s future that provide five-fold returns to State coffers in the form of increased tax revenues. On top of those returns, ISLI supports the critical work of connecting immigrants to healthcare and education—the kinds of services that, when accessed early, not only provide direct benefits to those in need but also end up saving taxpayers money in the long term. Without ISLI, the ability of immigrant-serving community organizations throughout our state to provide the requisite help will be severely diminished, and in some cases eliminated altogether.  Yet Governor Rauner, who portrays himself as a smart businessman committed to our state’s economic recovery, seems oblivious to these returns on the state’s investment in immigrant communities.

The suspension of ISLI is particularly galling not only because it was announced on a Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend, but also because the General Assembly in late March already passed emergency legislation to fix the fiscal shortfall for the current fiscal year—legislation that specifically preserved ISLI funding.  The Rauner Administration’s unilateral move flies in the face of what advocates and legislators understood about the spending legislation.

ICIRR calls on Governor Rauner to undo this foolish, destructive suspension.  We invite our allies to join us at the James R. Thompson Center in downtown Chicago at 12 noon on Wednesday, April 8, in calling on the Governor to restore ISLI funding for fiscal year 2015, and continue this funding for the next fiscal year.

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.

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