Immigration groups outline plans for upcoming state reforms

In a virtual event, immigration groups in Illinois said they will push state elected leaders to expand economic and health care benefits for immigrants.

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Angelica Garcia, 51, of West Chicago, said she wants Illinois to expand a Medicaid-like program that would provide immigrants like herself health benefits. Garcia was diagnosed in 2015 with mixed connective tissue disease. She was among a group of immigration advocates who detailed Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022, reforms they plan to push for this year in Illinois.

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Angelica Garcia pays about $700 each month for a private insurance because of her immigration status to help her live with mixed connective tissue disease.

Since she was diagnosed with the disease in 2015, she and her family have had to watch their expenses to ensure she’s able to buy medication she needs because her life expectancy could diminish without them, she said.

“Just thinking that I can no longer get the medications makes me feel as bad as the pain that the disease itself causes me,” Garcia said. “I know that my family also needs me. I also know that I deserve a chance at life.”

Garcia, 51, of West Chicago, is among those pushing for Illinois to expand a health care program to more immigrants like herself. Garcia, who volunteers at the cultural hub Casa Michoacan in suburban West Chicago, was among a group of immigration advocates Wednesday who detailed the economic and health care reforms they support.

Last year, Illinois expanded a Medicaid-like program that provides health insurance coverage to immigrants who are 55 and older, the Associated Press reported. Garcia said she doesn’t qualify for that program because of her age. She and others want the program to expand to include other immigrants like herself.

Many of the organizations represented at Wednesday’s virtual event spent last year advocating for immigration reform at the federal level, but it never came to fruition. Now it appears as though Democrats’ efforts to push through immigration reform are “on the brink of failure,” said Khaled Humaiden, who works for the Arab American Family Services.

He said efforts to expand services for immigrants in Illinois is part of the bigger fight for an overhaul of the country’s immigration system.

“It’s about reimagining a world that is centered around people’s needs so that everyone has an opportunity to thrive,” Humaiden said.

The group plans to push state elected officials to expand tax credits such as the earned income tax credit and to create a new child credit to include immigrants who pay taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, said Guadalupe Bueno, a community organizer with the suburban Mano a Mano Family Resource Center.

Community groups last year had also pushed for the state to expand the earned income tax credit, but they weren’t successful in getting the legislation passed.

They also want immigrants in Illinois to get more access to legal representation in deportation cases, said Marlenn Jacobo, a youth organizer with the community organization Enlace Chicago.

In Cook County, a recent law allowed the public defender’s office to create a process that will allow its attorneys to represent immigrants in federal removal proceedings.

Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.

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