The State of Illinois has the dubious distinction of doing more- illegally- to give aid to immigrants, than any other State. Any discussion of public benefits to immigrants must begin with the federal law, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (“the federal ban”), which prohibits state and local governments from providing “public benefits” to most legal immigrants and all illegal immigrants. 8 U.S.C. 1621. Congress enacted this ban “to remove the incentive for illegal immigration provided by the availability of public benefits.” 8 U.S.C. 1601(6). Federal policy has always required immigrants to be “self-sufficient.” Id. at (1). Generally, immigrants must have sponsors who agree to provide financial support if they cannot support themselves. And when a legal immigrant is able to obtain public benefits, the sponsor’s income is counted as the immigrant’s income. 8 U.S.C. 1631.
The federal ban created a loophole for states wanting to spend their resources on aid to immigrants. They can do so if they pass a law after the enactment of the ban which “expressly” so states. This was done to give the citizens of any state fair warning that it was passing such a law. Illinois cheated by simply reenacting certain welfare programs without any express language in the bill that it would provide benefits to immigrants, much less illegal immigrants. At least two such programs have been spending Illinois’ taxpayer funds on any “resident” of the state regardless of citizenship for years. One program, “moms and babies” provides prenatal and post-natal care to pregnant women. So this means immigrants can come to the Illinois and give birth to to baby who, under the current interpretation of of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution prevalent in our courts (though I disagree as detailed in my August 2010 post) is considered a U.S. “citizen.” And once such a baby is born, the chances of its mother being deported are virtually nil under the Obama administration’s deportation policies (unless the mother is a violent felon). Hence, the derogatory term “anchor baby” seems apt.
So any state or local government entity providing taxpayer benefits to pregnant women is effectively inviting them and their children to reside in the jurisdiction permanently. There is no reason to leave, and doing so will in all likelihood, result in a loss of benefits. I think if the citizens of Illinois knew the legislature had surreptitiously defied the federal ban and was disbursing their money to pregnant immigrants and anchor babies citizens, they would demand it be stopped, particularly in tough economic times. And to add insult to injury these immigrants need employment and compete for low-paying jobs with American citizens, thereby increasing unemployment and depressing wages.
We sued the State of Illinois to enjoin the further expenditure of taxpayer money by way of these two programs. But Judge Leroy Martin of the Circuit Court of Cook County accepted Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s argument that Illinois complied with the federal ban in its re-enactment of the programs, and summarily dismissed our challenge. We are appealing (see the home page, detailing Kaider v. Hamos).
Illinois is also violating another part of the federal ban which prohibits states from providing “any post secondary education benefit” to illegal immigrants based on their “residence within a state” unless the same discounted rate is offered to nonresidents of the state. 8 U.S.C. 1623. This means Illinois cannot provide illegal immigrants (even if they were brought into the country by their parents ) with discounted in-state tuition rates at its public universities unless those same rates are offered to everyone in the country, which defeats the entire concept of “in-state” discounted rates. Illinois has circumvented this law by offering in-state tuition rates to graduates of an Illinois high school without regard to their residency.
And last week Illinois enacted yet another law to give benefits to immigrants, including those here illegally. The legislature enacted, and Governor Quinn signed the “Illinois Dream Act” (modeled on the federal “Dream Act,” which was defeated last year and would have given legal status to college age illegal immigrants). This law provides privately-funded scholarships to illegal immigrants who have graduated from an Illinois high school. Although the State is not using taxpayer funds for the scholarships themselves, it created a nine-member commission to manage the program (receiving applications and disbursing the money to successful applicants). Why did the state enact a scholarship program to which only immigrants can benefit? Quinn cited no empirical data which indicates llinois has too few residents and needs to entice immigrants to fill jobs here. Our unemployment rate is over the national average, which refutes any such view. Moreover, the Governor offered no solace to the unemployed of the state, those in fear of losing their jobs, or those that believe we are already overtaxed. I get the distinct impression this law has one goal: to bolster the Governor’s standing with Hispanics.
The Illinois Dream Act violates the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment, which prohibits classifications based upon alienage unless such a law is necessary for a compelling governmental interest. What interest does Illinois have in creating a program to give scholarships to illegal immigrants? Or to put it another way, why is the state discriminating against U.S. citizens? We will soon find out. We intend to challenge this unconstitutional program in court. Maybe then Governor Quinn and Attorney General Madigan will come up with a coherent explanation for this offensive program.