Immigrants and Refugees Among Most Vulnerable Hurt by State Budget Impasse

June 2, 2017
Sophie Vodvarka
Communications Coordinator
(773) 294-4909

Over 100,000 Immigrants will lose critical services like citizenship assistance and language access to human services as Illinois looks set to gut the Immigrant Services Line Item again

(Chicago, IL - June 2, 2017)  The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) decries the lack of a fully-funded State budget for the third year in a row as the General Assembly closed its regular session this week.

Once again, the nearly $6 million Immigrant Services Line Item (ISLI) lacks funding for the next fiscal year.  Last year, ISLI was funded through a stopgap appropriation law.  At the end of June, this stopgap funding will run out, and 59 community-based organizations who have provided direct services to over one million immigrants throughout the state could be forced to stop providing essential citizenship and language access services.

ISLI funds the New Americans Initiative citizenship program and the Immigrant Family Resource Program, which assists immigrant families with language access and self-sufficiency support.  ISLI has funded 59 community-based organizations that have provided direct services across the state. Illinois is home to 1.8 million immigrants who make up 14% of the state’s population.

ICIRR’s New American Initiative has helped over 107,000 legal permanent residents become US citizens over the last twelve 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.

“Thousands of people who are eligible for citizenship in Illinois are at risk of losing the resources they need to become citizens,” said Lawrence Benito, ICIRR’s chief executive officer. “We urge our elected officials to quickly find a way to fund these programs and support our immigrant and refugee community.”

In these uncertain times, becoming a U.S. citizen is the ultimate goal for immigrants to safeguard their wellbeing and that of their family.  Currently in Illinois, 385,000 long-term legal immigrants 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.

ICIRR, a member of the Responsible Budget Coalition, joins RBC’s statement earlier today in declaring, “We will not rest until Illinois gets a budget with adequate new and permanent revenue to repair the damage that's been done, fund vital services, and make smart investments for the future.”

For more information about crucial citizenship services that are in danger of being cut, click here.