Governor Pritzker has struck down the closure of health care enrollments for immigrants

Backlash continued to rain on Governor JB Pritzker on Wednesday after his decision last week to end enrollment in a state-funded health insurance program for immigrants under 65 as other Illinois officials stressed that a design A law is on the governor’s desk that would allow the state to issue regular driver’s licenses to non-citizens.

Though unrelated, the two issues have been in the spotlight as Pritzker continues to fend off criticisms from Latino lawmakers and immigrant advocates that his administration’s decision on the health insurance program was unethical and fiscally short-sighted. Pritzker defended the move because program costs are skyrocketing.

But protesters gathered at Federal Plaza downtown for a death in which they hammered Pritzkers and carried placards in both English and Spanish declaring healthcare a human right.

I am infuriated that instead of celebrating the lives that are lived and thrived under this program, we need to give our governor’s office the image that they will react to, which is the lives that will die, said Graciela Guzman, former campaign director for Healthy Illinois, a coalition of health care advocates and pro-immigrants. I’m here to remind you that together in unity we can continue to give this push and we need it.

Gathering the crowd of nearly 100, community organizer Glo Choi added, shouting into a microphone: We just don’t want to die, right? We want to live. We want to thrive. We want our families, our grandchildren, our parents, our families to thrive. We ask Governor Pritzker to revoke these rules.

In addition to closing enrollments in the health insurance program for immigrants under 65 who are in the country without legal permission, the Pritzkers administration announced last week that it would also limit enrollments for those over 65. The changes are expected to go into effect July 1, which is the start of the state’s budget year, and come after Pritzker reached a $50.4 billion budget deal in May with Democrats in the General Assembly that earmarked $550 million for the program, about half of what the program was expected to cost.

State Senator Omar Aquino speaks during a migrant healthcare protest June 21, 2023, at Federal Plaza.  Members of Healthy Illinois and other campaign activists gathered to protest Governor JB Pritzker's recent decision to bar immigrants from enrolling in health coverage.

The budget deal placed responsibility for the program squarely in Pritzker’s hands, and the move is proving to be a growing political liability for the governor as he enters his second term. While Pritzker is trying to balance the political and fiscal realities, a bill that immigrant advocates want that would allow the state to issue regular driver’s licenses to noncitizens awaits the governor’s signature.

Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias met with lawyers and lawmakers in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood to push through the bill, which would change licenses for undocumented immigrants. Currently, state law requires temporary visitor driver’s licenses, or TVDLs, but supporters of the new bill argue such temporary licenses stigmatize non-citizens because they cannot be used as valid identification and inform law enforcement or other entity that the driver is not legally in the US

The new four-year licenses would replace the TVDL and include the wording Federal Limits Apply instead of the current phrase, Not Valid for Identification, which has a purple flag above it. TVDLs can’t be used for routine tasks like picking up drugs from a pharmacy, signing an apartment lease or verifying someone’s age, Giannoulias said.

TVDLs have become a scarlet letter to someone’s immigration status and sadly exposes them to discrimination or immigration enforcement, Giannoulias said. Our state embraces people from all backgrounds. Our communities are more vibrant because of this welcoming culture that has been woven into the fabric of Illinois.

This effort isn’t just about fairness and equality, he added, it’s also about safety. Enabling immigrants to obtain a driving license regardless of their legal status improves road safety for everyone on the road.

Asked if the governor plans to sign the driver’s license bill into law and whether that would ease any criticisms he has received for his handling of the health care program, a Pritzker spokesperson said the governor is eager to review The draft law. The spokesperson emphasized the administration’s support for immigrants and refugees, which includes cash assistance, housing and utility assistance, employment and job training services, and health education.

The state of Illinois is continuing its investments in health care with more than $500 million earmarked for a program that will provide health care to more than 63,000 people, state spokesman Alex Gough said in a statement. These are big hits for the immigrant community and the Governor is proud of his record.

Created in 2020, the program originally provided Medicaid-style coverage to immigrants age 65 and older who are in the country without legal permission or who have green cards but have not completed a five-year waiting period and are not therefore eligible for the traditional health insurance program for the poor, which is jointly funded by the federal government.

Since then, the program has been expanded twice and now covers those over 42. Advocates and some Democratic lawmakers pushed unsuccessfully during the spring legislative session to further expand the program to cover those ages 19 and older, as it became clear there were doubts whether the state could afford to fund the existing program at its current level.

Under the driver’s license bill, non-citizens would still have to go to vehicle service facilities to take the necessary sight and written tests, and must prove they have auto insurance, Giannoulias said. According to the secretary of state’s office, the ID cards do not comply with the federal government’s REAL ID Act program, which strengthened security standards for state-issued identification.

The measure also prohibits immigration authorities from using the data for these new identification documents unless the authorities provide a court-issued warrant, order or subpoena requesting personally-identifying information, the lawsuit said. Giannoulia’s office.

Supporters pose for photos with old, best and new Illinois state driver's licenses following the announcement of new legislation aimed at ending the stigma for immigrant drivers, during a press conference at the National Museum of Art Mexican in Chicago on June 21, 2023. The legislation would allow the state to issue standardized licenses to legally authorized immigrant drivers.

State Representative Barbara Hernandez, an Aurora Democrat who sponsored the legislation, reminded the crowd how she and her father many years ago attended a public meeting where her father voiced his support for the driver’s license legislation as he desperately needed this license to get work and stop anyone from stopping him and getting stopped.

This is why I am extremely grateful that I was able to be a part of this bill and help other families who may have been in the same situation my father once was, Hernandez said. (There are) many families who need this form of identification and for several years, almost 10 years, they were told they could not use this identification.

If Pritzker signs the bill, the secretary of state said, Illinois will join other states like California, Oregon, Colorado, Maryland, New York and New Jersey that have similar processes for non-citizens acquiring driver’s licenses. guide.

While Hernandez said she’s happy that immigrants into the country without legal permission get regular driver’s licenses if the governor signs the bill, she said health care remains an important component for this population.

For several years, the undocumented community has been living without health care and perhaps that’s why the whole process of health care is so expensive now because we could have done it years ago and prevented further disease, he said. But because we’ve neglected them for so long, they now have diseases that need to be under constant observation, or medications, and obviously that’s going to be costly to the state, unfortunately.

At the press conference in Plisen, Giannoulias hesitated to speak about whether Pritzker’s signature on the driver’s license bill would lessen the scrutiny he was subjected to with the immigrant health care program. Giannoulias instead focused on driving license legislation.

From the Secretary of State’s point of view, it’s about equality. It’s about fairness. He has shown us every indication that he will sign it. For me, it seems to be a no-brainer, he said.

State Senator Omar Aquino, a Democrat from Chicago who attended both the press conference with Giannoulias and the die-in at Federal Plaza, warned the crowd that state rules have very simple consequences and it’s a life-or-death situation. death.

It’s not fair in by far the richest country in the world, for us to have to make decisions about who lives or dies, it’s not fair, he shouted without a microphone, drawing some applause. It’s increasingly important to make sure you tell immigrants in this state that you are one of us, that we care about you and your families.

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