By PETER HANCOCK
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday 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.
For several weeks, President Donald Trump has said his administration plans to carry out large-scale roundups in major cities, including Chicago, of undocumented immigrants living in the country illegally.
On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security posted a notice in the Federal Register announcing that it intends to expand the use of the “expedited removal” process. That’s a provision of a 1996 immigration reform law allowing immigration officials, on their own authority, to deport people found anywhere in the country who have been in the country illegally for fewer than two years and who have not applied for asylum.
Previously, DHS has used that process only for people caught within 100 miles of the southern border who had been in the country illegally for fewer than two weeks. The federal law, however, gives the secretary of DHS wide discretion to modify the scope of the limits.
The Washington-based Migration Policy Institute estimates the new, expanded policy could target as many as 300,000 people who have been living in the United States illegally for fewer than two years.
Michelle Mittelstadt, communications director for the institute, said in a phone interview it hasn’t broken that figure down by state. However, the institute estimates there are 487,000 unauthorized immigrants living in Illinois and that roughly 69,000 of them, or 14 percent, have been in the country fewer than five years.
The vast majority of that population resides in Cook County, where the institute estimates there are 307,000 unauthorized immigrants, including 45,000 who have been in the country fewer than five years.