Illinois Governor JB Pritzker Signs Two New Laws Protecting Immigrant Youth

New Laws Extend Short-Term Guardianship, Aid Youth Applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

Chicago, IL (STL.News) – In the wake of attacks on immigrant families by the Trump administration, Governor JB Pritzker signed two new laws to protect immigrant youth in Illinois, as he was joined by immigrant rights advocates and state lawmakers.

“The accomplishments we have secured together have been done in the name of this shared belief: Nobody should ever be treated as less than a person because of where they were born,” said Governor JB Pritzker.  “That’s not the message coming from Washington.  Just this morning, the Trump administration announced a new class of undocumented immigrants to be subjected to expedited deportation.  Once again, they are demonizing people who don’t look and think like they do.  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 ensures that children are able to have short-term guardians if their parent is detained or deported by ICE.  By allowing a short-term guardianship to be extended an additional 365 days – double the current limit – the bill ensures an undocumented parent can entrust a guardian to make medical decisions and enroll a child in school, among other activities.  It also provides judicial discretion to consider granting guardianship of a minor when a parent can’t provide consent because they are unreachable due to an administrative separation.

House Bill 1553 better enables undocumented youth to obtain visas by aligning state laws with existing federal laws.  It authorizes adoption, family, juvenile and probate courts to proceed with and grant a petition for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, a visa specific to undocumented children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned.

“Now more than ever, it’s vital that immigrant families feel safe—and stay together—in Illinois,” said Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz (D-Glenview).  “These bills provide safeguards against victimization and family separation for immigrant children and their families.”

“This is about ensuring the safety of some of the most vulnerable people in our state,” said Senator Cristina Castro, (D-Elgin).  “We have an obligation to protect children regardless of their immigration status, and this law will expedite that process.”

“Now more than ever, it is our duty at the state level to support immigrant families impacted by Donald Trump’s horrendous immigration policies,” said Senator Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago).  “We need to do whatever is in our power to give parents and guardians at risk of detainment or deportation some peace of mind.  That starts with them the opportunity to choose who will care for their children should they be forcibly separated, ensuring their children are being taken care of in a safe, nurturing environment.  It’s the least we can do.”

“Both of these bills will make complicated legal processes fairer and more accessible for vulnerable immigrant children seeking stability and security,” said Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director of the National Immigrant Justice Center.  “The state plays a key role in helping children obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile visas, and this legislation will provide judges much-needed guidance and support to ensure they are equipped to fairly adjudicate these cases where children’s lives often hang in the balance.”

“As an organization that has a proven record of working alongside affected communities, PASO is proud to stand with the governor in taking bold and decisive action to protect children and immigrant families,” said Mony Ruiz-Velazco, executive director of PASO-West Suburban Action Project.