Illinois Senate Passes Bill Allowing Public Defenders to Represent Immigrants Facing Deportation

CHICAGO, IL — The Illinois Senate voted today 36 to 18 to pass HB2790, which would give public defenders in Cook County the discretion to represent noncitizens before Chicago’s Immigration Court. The Illinois House of Representatives passed the bill last month and now the bill will be sent to the governor to sign. If signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker, Cook County would become the third jurisdiction in the country to offer representation, through the Office of the Public Defender, to immigrants facing deportation. The other two jurisdictions are San Francisco and Alameda County, in California.

Last year, The Defenders for All coalition successfully advocated for the creation and funding of a dedicated immigration unit within the Office of the Cook County Public Defender (CCPD) to protect immigrants against deportation. As a result, the CCPD hired its first immigration attorney as the supervisor of the immigration unit. In November of 2020, the Cook County Board allocated $350,000 to the unit.

Due to the increased intertwining of our immigration laws and criminal laws, non-citizens in criminal court can face significant consequences if they are not advised properly by an attorney with immigration law experience. However, immigrants are 10.5 times more likely to have a successful outcome in their immigration proceedings if they have legal representation.

On behalf of the over 40 immigrant leaders, community organizations, and legal service providers that supported the creation of a fully funded immigration unit within CCPD we thank Chief Sponsors Senator Omar Aquino and Robert Peters for their leadership in passing the bill. We also thank Assistant Majority Leaders Antonio Muñoz & Jaqueline Y. Collins,  as well as the other 11 co-sponsors in the Illinois Senate for their support in ensuring that immigrants in Illinois have equal protection under the law.

“We are grateful to Senator Omar Aquino and Senator Robert Peters for being the Chief Sponsors of HB2790 in the Senate. Thanks to their leadership, this bill passed out of the Illinois Senate and is now on its way to Governor Pritzker’s Desk”Sharone R. Mitchell, Jr., Cook County Public Defender.

“Everyone deserves due process under the law HB-2790 takes us one step closer to ensuring immigrants are fairly represented. We thank the Illinois General Assembly, especially bill leaders Senator Omar Aquino, Senator Peter Roberts, Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz and Speaker Chris Welch for sponsoring and passing HB-2790 and protecting immigrants’ rights” – Ere Rendon, The Resurrection Project.

Programs like D4A ensure that all people get the opportunity to access all systems of justice no matter who they are and where they come from. D4A is a giant step toward equity , fairness and justice under the law for immigrants, their families and our communities.” – Tanya Woods, Westside Justice Center

On behalf of our business leaders and members, the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition applauds the Illinois General Assembly for this monumental victory in furthering Due Process for immigrants across the state. This policy is not only the right thing to do but it’s also economically smart.” – Rebecca Shi, Illinois Business Immigration Coalition.

The passing of HB 2790 is a monumental victory for the immigrant community. This recently passed bill ensures that in addition to receiving adept representation from public defenders in criminal court, noncitizens are also able to receive their legal representation in immigration proceedings. The Forum is thankful to our coalition partners and the Illinois legislature for leading such an inclusive bill that will provide noncitizens with a higher chance of not being detained or deported and will truly allow immigrant families a chance at staying together.” – Latino Policy Forum

This bill will enable the Immigration Unit to represent noncitizens facing deportation, and who otherwise would be forced to defend themselves pro se in immigration court proceedings. We recognize the importance of representation for all and will work to ensure that immigrants in our community have a meaningful day in court.

The Defenders for All Coalition (D4A) represents over 40 organizations that support the creation of a dedicated immigration unit within the Cook County Public Defender’s Office. Follow D4A’s work on Facebook and Twitter. 

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