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As some push for more migrant resources, many Chicago residents are fed up

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(The Center Square) – While some are arguing for more resources and protections for non-citizen migrants in Illinois, many Chicago residents say taxpayers have had enough and feel less safe.

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights gathered various groups together in Springfield Thursday to demand an additional $40 million in state funds for services such as interpretation and translation for the non-English speakers, among other measures.

Some of those other measures the group is pushing for include reopening enrollment for the state’s subsidized health care for non-citizens. That program is expected to cost taxpayers nearly $800 million. The Pritzker administration curbed enrollment in an effort to save taxpayer funds. The governor looks to spend more than $600 million in taxpayer funds on the issue in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Rallying at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield Thursday, Sophia Zaman, the executive director of the Raise the Floor Alliance, said they are looking for people to be treated with dignity.

“They’re here to make a good living. They’re here to be productive members of our society and we should welcome them,” Zaman told The Center Square. “Illinois is a proud, welcoming state and we should extend all of those rights to all of our citizens.”

Wednesday, Cassia Jones from the Gage Park neighborhood addressed the Chicago City Council and said she is a legal immigrant who followed the rules. With non-citizen migrants being sheltered in nearby facilities, she feels residents are “being thrown to the wolves” while non-citizens get resources and commit crimes.

“Yet we taxpayers are left behind. We are now being put in harm’s way because of the crimes they commit in our neighborhoods,” Jones said. “Your no-consequence policies tell them it is OK to commit these damn crimes.”

Chicago resident Michael Young-Bey told the Chicago City Council it was good the “Bring Chicago Home” real estate transfer tax appears to be failing. He said the money being used to fund migrants could be used to house the homeless.

“You ain’t got to spend no dime as much as the millions and billions that have been spent for these immigrants here, these migrants here, these asylum seekers here, which ultimately are illegal here,” Bey said.

More than 35,000 non-citizens have arrived in Chicago since August 2022, costing city and state taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Javier Reyes with the Workers Justice Center was in Springfield Thursday. He said those who think non-citizens are taking citizens’ jobs are incorrect.

“So what do you expect for someone to do here for three years without the ability to work, support their family or even feel human to be able to put food on the table,” he told The Center Square.

He is pushing for House Bill 5071, which he said would protect workers from immigration-based retaliation.

Other issues the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights argued for include a child tax credit, a state guaranteed income pilot program and increased taxes “to ensure that all families across the state have access to healthcare, childcare, education, and economic opportunity.”

Catrina Petersen contributed to this report.