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Illinois GOP legislators demand transparency surrounding spending on migrants

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(The Center Square) – Illinois Senate Bill 3170 demands several state agencies identify all spending on services and resources for non-citizens in Illinois.

State Sen. Sally Turner, R-Beason, said there is a serious lack of transparency when it comes to diverting huge amounts of taxpayer dollars toward serving tens of thousands of foreign nationals arriving from the southern border. Turner said there’s a wide range of agencies and non-profit organizations that spend taxpayer dollars on the issue.

“We don’t know where the money is coming from, what departments, and we’ve asked [Illinois Department of Public Health], [Illinois Emergency Management Agency], all these departments to give us what they’ve spent on projects and we are met with silence,” Turner said

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the money goes toward things like clothing and food.

“It’s taxpayers money, I think it’s important for people to know how the money is being spent at every level,” Pritzker said. “There’s a partnership between the city, the county and the state to cover the expenditure here and provide very basic shelter, food and clothing for people who are arriving here. Often they are shipped here with a tee shirt and sandals and no food in their belly.”

The Immigration Project received over $1.2 million in fiscal year 2021. In fiscal year 2023, a grant for Refugee-Welcoming Center Funding was given to the Immigration Project and that cost taxpayers $429,000. Also in that same year, $253,926 was spent on legal aid and pro bono services for migrants.

A contract from the Comptroller’s Office obtained by The Center Square through a Freedom of Information Act request shows the organization received nearly $400,000 in fiscal year 2024 from the Illinois Department of Human Services in the form of a Family and Community Services Grant for Immigrant Legal Aid and Immigration Pro Bono Network Funding.

And these costs are just the tip of the iceberg. Projected taxpayer costs for providing health care to foreign nationals is $770 million this fiscal year. Pritzker is proposing an additional $629 million to provide health care for migrants in next fiscal year’s budget. Other estimated costs for next fiscal year are $321 million.

Republicans say with the fiscal 2025 budget request, the state’s taxpayers are on track to spend $3 billion since fiscal 2023.

According to their tax documents, the Immigration Project was 99.5% supported by taxpayers.

Senate Minority Leader John Curran, R-Downers Grove, said Pritzker has circumvented traditional transparency and procurement procedures.

“These gimmicks and loopholes make it impossible to know exactly how many tax dollars are being spent on the migrant crisis he created,” Curran said. “You would think that a transparent accounting of how much Illinois citizens are paying for the Governor’s non-citizen welfare programs would be a reasonable request. Yet our basic questions continue to go unanswered.”

Curran said the Republican bill, if passed, would force state agencies to show how much state taxpayer money is being spent on migrants, and would hopefully inspire Chicago to pass an ordinance to be transparent with their residents on how they spend what the state gives them.

Pritzker said spending is being done in a cost-efficient manner.

“To me, it’s our humanitarian obligation to do something for them, and we are doing it in a cost-efficient fashion,” Pritzker said. “I think that every single person that arrives in Chicago, whether they are migrants being shipped for political purposes by the governor of Texas, or they come here seeking refuge. This is an opportunity for all of us to think about the future of our state and the future of the city of Chicago. Providing them a reasonable start, it strikes me as a good thing to do.”

SB3170 would require state agencies to submit a report to the General Assembly detailing their spending on or before Nov. 15, 2024.

Greg Bishop contributed to this report.