Criticism continues against Governor Pritzker’s decision to close health care enrollment for immigrants

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Protests at Federal Plaza following the closure of the Migrant Health Care Program on Wednesday, June 21, 2023, in Chicago.  The demonstration represents the lives of immigrants lost due to Governor JB Pritzker's recent decision to prevent immigrants from signing up for health care coverage.

Backlash continued on Governor JB Pritzker on Wednesday after last week’s decision to close enrollment for a state-funded health insurance program for immigrants under the age of 65, as other Illinois officials insisted that the governor’s There is a planned bill on the desk that would allow the state to issue regular driver’s licenses to non-citizens.

Although not linked, the two issues have come to center stage as Pritzker continues to fend off criticism from Latino lawmakers and immigrant advocates that his administration’s decision on the health insurance program was “unethical and economically short-sighted.” Pritzker has defended the move because the program’s costs have skyrocketed.

But protesters gathered in the center of Federal Plaza for a “death march”, in which they booed Pritzker and carried signs declaring health care a human right in English and Spanish.

“It enrages me that instead of celebrating the lives that were lived and prospered under this program, we have to give the governor’s office an image that they will respond to, which is lives that will die,” K. said Graciela Guzman, former director of the Healthy Illinois Campaign, a coalition of health and immigrant advocates. “I am here to remind you that together, united, we can continue to move forward, and we must do so.”

Amid a crowd of about 100 people, community organizer Glo Choi shouted into the microphone: “We don’t want to die, right? We want to live, we want to prosper. We want our families, our grandchildren, our parents, our families to be prosperous. We urge Governor Pritzker to rescind these rules.”

In addition to closing enrollment for the health insurance program for immigrants under age 65 who are in the country without legal permission, the Pritzker administration announced last week that it would open enrollment for people age 65 and older. will also limit The changes are set to take effect July 1, the start of the state’s budget year, and come after Pritzker reached a $50.4 billion budget agreement with Democrats in the General Assembly in May, who appropriated $550 million for the program. , which was almost half. The cost of the program was estimated.

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The budget compromise placed responsibility for the program squarely on Pritzker, a move that is proving to be an increasing political responsibility for the governor at the start of his second term. As Pritzker tries to balance political and fiscal realities, immigrant advocates want a bill that would allow the state to issue regular driver’s licenses to noncitizens, awaiting the governor’s signature.

Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias met with advocates and lawmakers in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood to promote the bill, which would replace licenses for undocumented immigrants. Temporary visitor driver’s licenses, or TVDLs, are currently required by state law, but proponents of the new bill argue that such temporary licenses stigmatize non-citizens because they cannot be used as valid identification and the law Law enforcement or other other entities know that the motorist is not legally in the US.

The new four-year licenses will replace the TVDL and include the phrase “federal limits apply”, with a purple checkmark above it, instead of the current words “not valid for identification”. The TVDL can’t be used for routine tasks like picking up a drug at the pharmacy, signing an apartment lease or verifying someone’s age, Gianoulias said.

“The TVDL has become a red letter of one’s immigration status and, unfortunately, exposes them to discrimination or immigration enforcement,” Gianoulias said. “Our state welcomes people of all backgrounds. Our communities are more vibrant because of this welcoming culture that is woven into the fabric of Illinois.”

“This effort isn’t just about justice and equality,” he said, “it’s also about security.” Allowing immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses regardless of their legal status improves road safety for everyone on the road.”

When asked whether the governor plans to sign the driver’s license bill into law and whether this would reduce criticism he has received for his handling of the health care program, a Pritzker spokesman said the governor would Look forward to reviewing the bill.” The spokeswoman highlighted the administration’s support for immigrants and refugees, which she said “includes cash assistance, housing and utility assistance, employment services and job training, and health care education.”

“The state of Illinois continues its investment in health care and has committed more than $500 million to a program that will provide health care to more than 63,000 people,” spokesman Alex Gough said in a statement. “These are huge successes for the immigrant community and the governor is proud of his record.”

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Created in 2020, the program originally provided Medicaid-style coverage to immigrants age 65 and older who are in the country illegally or who have green cards but have not completed the five-year waiting period and Therefore, they are not eligible for the traditional less. -income health insurance, which is jointly funded by the federal government.

Since then, the program has been expanded twice and now includes people 42 and older. During the spring legislative session, advocates and some Democratic lawmakers lobbied unsuccessfully to further expand the program to cover people 19 and older, as it became clear that there were concerns about whether the state would be able to comply with existing laws. Funding the program at its current level.

Under the driver’s license bill, Gianoulias said, non-citizens would still have to go to vehicle service facilities to take required vision and written tests and prove they have auto insurance. According to the Office of the Secretary of State, the ID cards do not comply with the federal government’s REAL ID Act program, which has tightened security standards for state-issued IDs.

Giannoulias’ office said the measure also prevents immigration enforcement officials from using the data for these new identities unless the officials provide a court order or subpoena requesting the personally identifiable information.

Immigrant Advocates Are Following The Announcement Of New Legislation That Will Allow The State To Issue Standardized Licenses To Immigrant Motorists.  Gianoulias Helped Craft The Measure, Sponsored By State Representative Barbara Hernandez (D-50-Aurora) And State Senator Rama Villivalam (D-8-Chicago).

State Representative Barbara Hernandez, the Aurora Democrat who sponsored the legislation, reminded the crowd how she and her father attended a public meeting several years ago where her father expressed support for the driver’s license law “because he This driver’s license was desperately needed to go to work and prevent anyone from being stopped and detained.”

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“That’s why I’m extremely grateful to be a part of this bill and help other families who may be in the same situation my father was in,” Hernandez said. “[There are]many families that need this type of identification and have been told for many years, about 10 years, that they cannot use this identification.”

If Pritzker signs the bill, Illinois will join other states, including California, Oregon, Colorado, Maryland, New York and New Jersey, that require non-citizens to obtain a driver’s license, the secretary of state’s office said. There are similar processes.

While Hernandez said she is glad that if the governor signs the bill that would allow immigrants into the country without legal permission to get a regular driver’s license, she noted that health care remains a “big, big component” for this population. .

He said, “For many years, the undocumented community has been living without health care and that is probably the reason why the entire health care process is so expensive now because we could have done it years ago and avoided any other disease.” Were.” “But because we’ve neglected them for so long, they now have diseases that require constant monitoring or medication, and of course, unfortunately, that will be costly to the state.”

At the press conference in Pilsen, Gianoulias hesitated to speak about whether Pritzker’s signature on the driver’s license bill would soften scrutiny under the immigrant health care program. Instead, Gianoulias focused on driver’s license legislation.

“From the point of view of the Secretary of State, it is about equality. It’s about justice. He has shown us every indication that he will sign it. For me, it turned out to be a random act,” he said.

State Senator Omar Aquino, a Chicago Democrat who attended both the press conference with Giannoulias and the protest at Federal Plaza, warned the crowd that the state’s rules “have very simple consequences” and that “it is a matter of life or loss.” The situation is.” death.

“It’s not right in the country of the richest people the world has ever had that we have to make decisions about who lives or dies,” he shouted without a microphone. “It is very important to make sure that we are telling immigrants in this state that you are one of us, we care about you and your families.”

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