Restoring immigration services

As of April 3, Governor Bruce Rauner cut funding for vital programs across the state, including all immigrant service programs. The Immigrant Service Line Item makes up only .01 percent of the overall state budget.

This cut severs funding for essential programs, and hinders progress in the state. Immigrant service programs provide integral infrastructure for Illinois residents of all backgrounds to contribute fully to their communities.

Organizations that receive ISLI grants already operate on thin margins and stretch their funding to serve their clients. Yet, the cut of this line item leaves many immigrant families without key services, and in some cases forces immigrant serving agencies to shut down, leaving wider gaps in already underserved communities.

Over 60 organizations state-wide, including the East-Central Illinois Mutual Refugee Assistance Center located in Urbana, assist with immigration education, aid in completing and preparing documents for citizenship and permanent residency applications. They also offer other services.

Champaign County is no stranger to foreign-born residents; the Champaign-Urbana immigrant population has grown to at least 12 percent. After immigrants achieve citizenship, they earn more to contribute to our state’s economy — on average 55 percent, or $6,888 more per year — which makes these services smart investments for the future of Illinois.

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As an immigrant from the Dominican Republic and now a citizen of the United States, I can attest how beneficial these programs truly are and I wish such programs had existed when my family applied for citizenship.

It’s time to reach an agreement that provides better solutions. It’s time for us to take a stand — not only for what’s happening locally, but statewide. I urge all students to contact our legislators and ask them to restore appropriations for these services. The future of Illinois depends on it.

Cristina Valdez, senior in LAS.