ICIRR Applauds Restoration of Immigrant Services, Other Suspended Funding

April 20, 2015

ICIRR Applauds Restoration of Immigrant Services, Other Suspended Funding

Funding for FY 2016 Still Uncertain

 

(Chicago—April 30, 2015) – The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) applauds Governor Rauner’s decision, after weeks of pressure from ICIRR and allied groups, to restore funding for immigrant services and more than twenty more social service grant programs that he had suspended on April 3 (Good Friday). Restoration of the Immigrant Services Line Item (ISLI) will allow programs that have enabled hundreds of thousands of our state’s immigrants to gain citizenship, find better jobs, and contribute even further to our community to continue through the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. ICIRR will continue to fight for these programs, which unfortunately remain in jeopardy as the Governor has proposed to defund them entirely in the next fiscal year.

ICIRR joined with dozens of other organizations to protest the Good Friday suspensions, organizing rallies at the Thompson Center on April 8 and 9, lobby days in Springfield (including yesterday), online petitions, phone banks, and other actions. ICIRR also reached out to the caucus leaders in the Illinois General Assembly, and in particular to House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, to go to bat for our groups with Governor Rauner. “We are happy that Governor Rauner has heard the voices of immigrants and other vulnerable communities to restore these crucial programs,” said ICIRR chief executive officer Lawrence Benito. “While we have won this round, the Governor‘s shortsighted proposal to zero out ISLI next year is still on the table.”

The Immigrant Services Line Item (ISLI), which ICIRR administers and 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. IFRP operates in 59 different languages.
  • 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 60 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 provides five-fold returns to State coffers in the form of increased tax revenues. In addition, 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, these organizations’ ability to provide the requisite help will be severely diminished, and in some cases eliminated altogether. 

While ISLI funding is being restored for the current fiscal year, prospects for the upcoming fiscal year starting July 1 are tenuous. Governor Rauner’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016 eliminated ISLI, even though at ICIRR’s immigration summit in January he pledged “to do everything I can to help.” ICIRR will continue to work with our partner organizations and allies to stress the importance of immigrant services as a small but significant investment in the future of our state. “Governors and legislators from both parties have recognized that ISLI is a smart investment in immigrant communities,” Benito added. “We hope that our elected officials will continue to see the wisdom of investing in immigrants so that they can contribute even more to our entire 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.

 

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