Pritzker signs bills protecting immigrant youths

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs into law two bills aimed at protecting children of unauthorized immigrants during a ceremony Tuesday, July 23, at the Mexican Art Museum in Chicago. (Photo courtesy of Blueroomstream.com)

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday, July 23, signed two bills into law aimed at protecting immigrant children, just as the Trump administration announced plans to expand the use of “expedited removals” to reduce the number of undocumented immigrants in the country.

At a bill-signing ceremony in Chicago, where he was joined by state lawmakers and immigration rights advocates, Pritzker took aim at the president over the new policy.

“Once again, they are demonizing people who don’t look and think like they do,” Pritzker said in a news release. “There is no place for that in Illinois. I’m proud to sign legislation that offers greater stability to the lives of immigrant children who deserve all the hope we can give them.”

House Bill 836, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, D-Glenview, and Sen. Ram Villivalam, D-Chicago, allows courts to appoint short-term guardians for up to 12 months, double the current limit, for children whose parent was detained or deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It also gives courts discretion to consider granting guardianship if the child’s parents cannot give consent because they are unreachable due to an administrative separation.

Guardianship enables someone other than the parent to make medical decisions and enroll a child in school, according to Pritzker’s news release.

That bill passed the House on March 28 by a vote of 89-19. It passed the Senate on May 16 by a vote of 56-0.

House Bill 1553, sponsored by Gong-Gershowitz and Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, enables undocumented children who are victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment to obtain a certain kind of visa. The bill aligns state law with federal law so judges in adoption, family, juvenile and probate courts can grant petitions for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.

“Both of these bills will make complicated legal processes fairer and more accessible for vulnerable immigrant children seeking stability and security,” Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director of the National Immigrant Justice Center, said in the news release.

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