Pritzker signs laws at UIC helping undocumented, trans community

Before a standing room of hundreds of immigrant rights supporters, politicians and university leaders at a bill-signing ceremony at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation that would make sure, “Illinois is and always will be a welcoming state.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker seated at desk
Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed three immigration bills at an event at UIC.
Photo: UIC Creative and Digital Services

Standing at a podium alongside UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis and other leaders behind the bills, Pritzker said the bills signed into law would stand in stark contrast to current federal policies.

“Let the word go out from today that the State of Illinois stands as a firewall against Donald Trump’s attacks on our immigrant communities,” said Pritzker. “In the face of attempts to stoke fear, force division and force families into the shadows we’re taking action.”

The bills signed into law include:

  • HB 2691, known as the “Rise Bill,” makes undocumented students eligible for MAP grants and institutional aid at public institutions. It also makes transgender students eligible for financial aid regardless of whether they registered for selective service, which is a condition of eligibility for federal financial aid. The signed law now permits students who have used at least 75 credit hours of assistance through the MAP program without yet attaining junior status to continue receiving scholarships rather than cut them off until they attain junior status.
  • HB 2040, known as the “Private Detention Facility Moratorium Act,” prohibits local units of government from entering into agreements to establish for-profit private immigrant detention centers in Illinois.
  • HB 1637, known as the “Keep Illinois Families Together Act,” prohibits local law enforcement agencies from entering into 287(g) agreements with ICE that would deputize police to act as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, agents.

Pritzker, who took office in January, was welcomed to campus and introduced by Amiridis who said that the Rise Bill had its birth among the UIC and social services community about six years ago after a task force was entrusted to look at financial issues confronted by undocumented students and their families.

He pointed to organizations in the room, including the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights or ICIRR, for their efforts to have the bill turned into law.

“They rallied, they held press conferences, many of them here on this campus in collaboration with other universities and in collaboration with high schools and most importantly they went to the (voting) polls last autumn and they voted,” said Amiridis. “Today we are here to witness the Rise Act become the state law. I want to thank Gov. Pritzker for making this a priority in his first six months.”

UIC alumus Jose Eduardo Vera said, as a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program student, or DACA, he was proud of being present for the bill signing. Vera is currently attending John Marshall Law School which will formally become part of UIC later this summer.

“Amidst all the nonsense we see at the national level – the White House capitalizing on fear for political gain, all the racist, anti-immigrant policies – Illinois is showing a different way forward,” said Vera, who works with the Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project. “Today we are taking an important step in making Illinois a more welcoming state.”

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