State Budget Crisis Continues to Hurt Immigrants

February 16, 2017
Sophie Vodvarka
Communications Coordinator
Sophievod@gmail.com
(773) 294-4909

Eliminating the Immigrant Services Line Item and Illinois Welcoming Centers hurts service providers who assist immigrants in obtaining citizenship, learning English, attending college, and achieving their American dream

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) stands with our allies across the State of Illinois in calling for a resolution to Springfield’s manufactured budget crisis.  After two years of a budget stalemate that adversely affects our state’s most vulnerable residents, ICIRR calls for a responsible budget that puts people before politics.  As each day without a budget passes, we continue to see our social services infrastructure deteriorate, resulting in job losses and a growing number of needy clients who go unserved. 

For the third year in a row, the Governor has proposed eliminating almost $6 million in the Immigrant Services Line Item.  Through this funding, ICIRR’s New American Initiative has helped over 105,000 legal permanent residents become US citizens over the last ten years and the Immigrant Family Resource Program has provided access to essential human and government services to over 500,000 people in 59 different languages.  This funding had been restored in the “stopgap” appropriations passed in June 2016, but only through June 2017.

The Governor has zeroed out the Immigrant Services Line Item and the Illinois Welcoming Centers under the Department of Human Services precisely at time when they are needed the most.  Under the Trump Administration, immigrant and refugee communities are under attack as deportation activity has accelerated, refugee resettlement has been blocked, and persons from several predominantly Muslim nations have been singled out for discriminatory treatment.

In these uncertain times, becoming a U.S. citizen is the ultimate protection for immigrants to safeguard their wellbeing and that of their family.  Currently in Illinois, 385,000 people are eligible to become US citizens.  The ongoing budget crisis, however, is hampering the ability of not-for-profit legal service providers to assist them in defending their families and achieving their American dream.  The lack of a budget has also crippled higher education in Illinois, including adult education and English as a Second Language, which are crucial to the success of immigrant and refugee communities.

Itedal Shalabi, executive director of Arab American Family Services in Bridgeview, joined ICIRR’s delegation to the Capitol for the Budget Address. “Immigrants and refugees are under unprecedented attack at the national level.  Illinois needs to show leadership and protect its immigrant families at this time not cut services to them”

Governor Rauner and the General Assembly must resolve this crisis now by agreeing to a fully funded state budget with adequate revenue.