ICIRR Calls for Increased Funding for Immigrant Services
(CHICAGO--February 20, 2020): Responding to the proposed budget presented yesterday by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s for Fiscal Year 2021, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) issued the following statement:
Immigrant families face ongoing attacks from the federal administration, including the confusion from impending public charge rules, the elimination of fee waivers for low-income citizenship applicants coupled with excessive increases to citizenship and other immigration fees, and other attempts to discourage full participation of immigrants in our society. The State of Illinois, fortunately, has provided funding through the Department of Human Services Immigrant Services Line Item (ISLI) for citizenship assistance, language access services, and other programs to address the needs of immigrant families and counter the damage wrought by federal policies.
While Governor Pritzker has proposed to continue funding ISLI at $6.5 million, this moment calls for an investment to push back against Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. ISLI is a tool that could offer a robust state response to provide budget equity for immigrant services and reverse the harm inflicted by the Trump administration on immigrant communities in Illinois. ICIRR is asking the Illinois General Assembly to approve $20 million for ISLI and other supports, which would enable more community organizations to better serve immigrant families. In particular, increased funding would:
-Enable agencies funded through the Immigrant Family Resource Program to better respond to the confusion caused by the federal public charge rule, designed to discourage immigrant families from seeking medical, nutritional, and other human services programs for which they are eligible. (The public charge rule is currently blocked in Illinois by federal court order but the US Department of Justice is asking the US Supreme Court to set that order aside and allow the rule to go into effect, as it will elsewhere in the US on February 24.)
-Create a new fund to pay the application fees for low-income citizenship applicants who would lose the ability to get their fees waived under the federal administration’s proposed fee schedule and would otherwise need to pay an increased fee of $1170 (from $725).
-Expand citizenship supports to new geographic areas throughout the state to regions not providing services.
-Support the Family Support Hotline, which provides support for immigrants throughout the state facing an ICE raid as well as other immigrant support services.
“Full funding for immigrant services is a critical investment in making Illinois the most welcoming state in the country, said state Representative Lisa Hernandez, assistant majority leader and Latino Caucus Co-Chair. “We should use every tool at our disposal to protect our residents from Trump’s anti-immigrant regime, and to push back against any barriers he puts in place to help immigrants obtain citizenship.”
“At a time when immigrant communities are under unprecedented attack, Illinois has a moral obligation to fight back with everything we’ve got”, state Senator Celina Villanueva said. “I am happy to see some investments towards immigrant communities, but a little more will go a long way. Immigrants make up 14% of the state’s population, but only receive .01% of the state budget through the Immigrant Service Line Item. With $20 million in investments, we will lift up citizenship, provide a critical first response to the militarized raids our communities are being threatened with and more. I will fight to bring funding up to the levels our communities need.”
ICIRR also supports the Governor’s proposal to equitably broaden eligibility for the state earned income credit (EIC), a key means to provide support for working families. Unfortunately, many immigrant families are currently unable to fully avail themselves of this credit. The governor’s proposal would in particular enable families that file state tax returns using IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) to receive the credit, and make other changes to broaden eligibility and increase the credit amount.
Finally, ICIRR fully supports the Fair Tax initiative that the General Assembly approved last year and that goes before Illinois voters this November. Fair Tax is crucial to more fully funding state programs that address the needs of Illinois families. We stand with Governor Pritzker in urging Illinois voters to approve this initiative this fall.
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is a statewide coalition of more than 100 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.