Sunday, June 23, 2024

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Illinois announces plan to address asylum seeker emergency response

New investments will provide shelter to those at police stations and airports, speed transition to independent living

CHICAGO, Ill. – Governor JB Pritzker announced that the State of Illinois will invest an additional $160 million via the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis presented by the arrival of over 24,000 asylum seekers from the U.S. Southern Border.

The State, alongside local partners, has led a comprehensive data driven analysis of the ongoing asylum seeker response, rooted in not only data but also input from frontline partners and new arrivals, which identified several “bottlenecks” where services and resettlement tended to slow. These bottlenecks included delays in initial intake at landing sites, access to shelter, and the transition to independent living. This has led to backlogs and capacity issues, most visible in individuals sleeping outside police stations, but more broadly across the process.

The plan

The State is deploying targeted additional funding through a data-driven approach that will address these bottlenecks in all stages of the current asylum seeker response. This includes:

1. WELCOME: $30 million to stand up a large intake center to centrally welcome and comprehensively coordinate new arrivals, prioritizing onward movement. This investment will ensure both a more integrated approach across state, county, city, and community-based organizations but will also ensure better support for those coming to Chicago who are seeking another final destination, or who have sponsors in Illinois and don’t require shelter, thereby better maintaining shelter capacity as a whole. With this approach, data indicates the number of new arrivals requiring shelter can be reduced by 10%.

More immediately, in partnership with the City of Chicago, the State has funded a New Life Centers of Chicagoland team to deploy to the city bus landing zone to ensure every new arrival is supported in a choice to seek alternative arrangements outside the city shelter system.

2. SHELTER: $65 million to help the City of Chicago launch a winterized soft shelter site providing temporary housing for up to 2,000 people at any given time for six months. These beds will be prioritized for families and individuals with disabilities currently sleeping outdoors, on police station floors, and at the airport. This will ensure a safe and warm place to live during the winter months and allow for the provision of the wraparound services the State currently funds at city shelters. This site will operate as part of the existing City of Chicago shelter system.

3. INDEPENDENCE: $65 million in increased funding to expand the wraparound services the State currently provides at city shelters which enable new arrivals to live independently as they await asylum hearings, including case management, legal services, work permit processing, and workforce development support. The State will continue to provide the rental assistance that allows asylum seekers to transition from shelters to independent living.

This announcement builds on $478 million in state funding that has been provided or committed to the asylum seeker response over FY 2023 and 2024. This includes direct funding to the City of Chicago and other municipalities assisting asylum seekers as well as substantial State funding for shelter, food, medical care, rental assistance, and wraparound casework and services.

“With Congress likely unwilling to act, and with lives of innocent people at stake, the hurdles we face seem far beyond the scope of any one state — and yet, everything we can do, we must do,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Today I am laying out a comprehensive data-driven plan to improve the response to this humanitarian crisis and amplify the effectiveness of our investments with the end goal of moving asylum seekers out of our system of care and on to independence.”

A cornerstone of this plan is a State-led effort to move thousands of individuals through the federal Temporary Protect Status (TPS) and Employment Authorization Document (EAD) processes as quickly as possible. This will allow asylum seekers to gain employment and achieve self-sufficiency, thereby alleviating the strain on state resources. In the weeks and months ahead, the State will stand-up large-scale workshops with legal aid providers and pro-bono attorneys to facilitate the application process. Workshops will be co-located with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) workforce programming to provide federal assistance and job search resources simultaneously. By February, the State aims to have submitted the applications of the roughly 11,000 TPS and/or EAD eligible asylum seekers residing in City of Chicago shelters, with thousands more to be completed in the months that follow.

Policy changes

To further address bottlenecks, Chicago and Illinois are pairing these new investments with changes to existing policy to ensure as many people as possible receive services. The city has announced policy changes related to shelter stay duration for all asylum seekers in city shelters, which will be paired with intensified case management and housing assistance from the State. This will ensure individuals get the services they need while also quickly connecting to community and transitioning to independent living, which then opens space for additional new arrivals requiring immediate shelter.

The State is also adjusting its Asylum Seeker Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ASERAP) to extend its reach to support onward movement. The program will now cover three-months of rent, instead of up to six-months, which will allow all current shelter residents to access the program. For all new shelter arrivals, ASERAP will no longer be available, but housing assistance will still be provided to support the housing search process, tenant rights, and landlord-tenant communications.

Federal support

Governor Pritzker has repeatedly urged federal intervention to aid in managing the ongoing humanitarian crisis, which has been exacerbated by GOP governors sending buses of migrants to Democrat-run cities, often without any information or warning to human services agencies in Illinois. Only the federal government and U.S. Congress can provide the coordination and funding needed to truly address this crisis. However, with the approaching Midwestern winter and continued influx of asylum seekers, Chicago and Illinois are committed to taking the necessary action to keep people safe.

In early October, Governor Pritzker sent a letter to President Biden requesting significant expansion in federal government support, including coordination efforts at the border, funding, data collection, fee waivers, and Medicaid and housing vouchers. In response, the Biden administration has taken steps to accelerate the work authorization process for new arrivals. The Governor continues to be in constant contact with the White House to discuss ongoing needs for coordination and support.

“The collaboration between city and state agencies during this humanitarian crisis is an example of how when we work together, we can have a greater impact,” said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. “As our new neighbors continue to arrive in Chicago and areas across Illinois, we want to ensure they are safe, treated with dignity, and have access to the resources they need to care for themselves and their families.”

Office of the Illinois Governor
Office of the Illinois Governor
One of the duties of the Office of the ​Governor is to announce the lowering of flags to half-staff for every Illinois member of the armed forces, police force, fire service, and other groups covered by the Act killed in the line of duty. The Lansing Journal receives news releases regarding these occasions and republishes them for our community. We also publish other state news from the Governor's Office that impacts or interests our community.


  1. An individual that crosses our border illegally is not an asylum seeker. It is disrespectful and manipulative to use this label. Our country already has a legal process for Asylum. Our tax dollars are being illegally used to financially support criminals who are non-citizens. Illegal border crossing is the specific criminal act that I am referring to in my comment. Congress should “NOT ACT”. Appropriations are intentionally designated for legal / lawful activities. Congress allowing these states to run out of our hard earned money is appropriate. No bail out here. Immigration was never the crisis. We have an anti-American administration…..that is the crisis.

  2. i love how they worry about illegals but not people who live here and are homeless. they come here to take jobs from citzens and take less pay then the laws say which i have seen first hand.

  3. The US should take a cue from our neighbors to the north, Canada. One cannot seek permanent resident status until first applying to province where you want to live, after which there is an acceptance process. After acceptance it is 2-5 years of job history and paying taxes along with a test before becoming a citizen. Oh wait, the U.S. has that too. My family fled Europe in early 1900s and entered through the all-encompassing checkpoint, Ellis Island. They were quarantined for diseases and sent back to Europe if protocol applied. They had to have a sponsor already living in the United States which was also a requirement if seeking Canadian residency at that time. If a refugee seeking asylum appeared on our shores they were accepted and processed through a single checkpoint, no sponsor required. Why is it that politicians always want to reinvent the wheel? Oh wait, there was a checkpoint in Texas. It is a very costly venture when we wait for something to happen before acting. When Chicago let everyone know it was a sanctuary city, did it have it’s ducks in a row? Were agencies in place for ‘that’ day? If not, was it because Chicago never expected it to happen…being so far away from Texas and all, or a don’t-spend-unless-you-have-to mentality? Was it a pay-as-you-go-just-tell-me-what-you-want type of arrangement; no proactivity required?

    I see our governing bodies throwing money around in the name of everything. Is this how America views immigrants, invited or not? We all are well aware if you want your bill passed in Congress that nobody wants, attach it to a bill everyone wants using whatever you can to get what you want. To this I say, our motivation will be the reward.

    The Toxin:
    Run for office and you will see,
    it takes a shake of the money tree.

    It is the root to some degree,
    of all that’s wrong in our democracy.

    Save. Sell. Buy. Spend.
    No regard for where it ends.

    A house of cards in dollar bills.
    Greasing palms, making deals.

    Favors’ never-ending score.
    Idling watching for an open door.

    No value of worth is this measuring stick.
    In the end may only constrain and constrict.

    Intent of use of legal tender.
    Hungry still—made it, been there.

    The Antidote:
    Psalm 107 (KJV)

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