Governor Pritzker expands protections for immigrants and refugee communities

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Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) – Governor Pritzker signed a package of legislation to expand protection for immigrants and refugee communities in Illinois on Thursday.

Governor JB Pritzker signed House Bill 709 and House Bill 2790 into law. Officials said the new laws provide residents in Cook County with legal representation and launches information campaigns to help immigrants and refugees in Illinois understand their rights.

“The legislation I’m signing today builds on our nation-leading efforts to make Illinois a welcoming state for immigrants and refugees,” said Gov. Pritzker. “I’m proud that these critical protections advance our mission to give our immigrant neighbors the equitable representation that they deserve. Everyone should feel safe and secure in the place they call home and I remain committed to ensuring that our efforts to protect immigrants define what it means to live, work, and thrive in Illinois.”

House Bill 709

The legislation requires the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) to conduct public information campaigns to educate immigrants of their rights under the U.S. Constitution and Illinois laws. According to the government documents, information campaign will include resources and contact information of organizations that help protect the rights of immigrant communities. This applies to refugees, asylum seekers, and other noncitizens living in Illinois.

“In America, every human being, regardless of citizenship status, maintain certain rights. That’s something that a lot of people are unaware of, including those it impacts most,” said State Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz (D- Glenview). “This important legislation provides that the Department of Human Services conduct a public information campaign to educate people about their rights.”

HB 709 is effective immediately.

House Bill 2790

The legislation ensures there are no jurisdictional conflicts prevent public defenders from representing clients in federal immigration court. HB 2790 states, in counties with a population of more than 3 million, a public defender can act as an attorney to noncitizens without a fee or an appointment in immigrant cases.

“Every person deserves representation in a courtroom, regardless of immigration status or income level. As an immigration and human rights attorney, this legislation is very personal to me,” said Gong-Gershowitz. “HB2790, Defenders for All, now allows Cook County Public Defenders to represent immigrants who lack legal representation during immigration proceedings.”

HB 2790 is effective starting from January 1.

This package of legislation builds on previous packages to help protect immigrants and refugee communities. Earlier this month, the Governor signed these pieces of legislation to expand the protection for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. They also signed legislation that banned the establishment of private, for-profit immigrant detention centers and took action to prevent landlords from using a tenant’s immigration status against them.

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