Between U.S. Supreme Court decisions upending affirmative action and student loan forgiveness, a battle to raise the debt ceiling and the ongoing arrival of migrants to Illinois, it’s been an eventful summer in government affairs.
Regarding the resources available for incoming migrants, U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García said he doesn’t believe the federal government is providing enough support to Chicago and other cities that are receiving large numbers of migrants from other states.
“I think Mayor Brandon Johnson is taking the right position and maintaining the history and the legacy of being a welcoming city for immigrants from all over,” García said. “The city hasn’t received enough funding. There is money needed for food, for shelter and other support services, mental health services. We’re working in Washington to get more aid to Chicago from the (Federal Emergency Management Agency). It is needed and warranted, and Chicago isn’t alone.”
In particular, García said he would like to see work permits expedited for recently arrived migrants.
“We’re urging the White House to act,” García said. “We’re urging them to get FEMA to recognize the extraordinary circumstances and to respond. If people have the ability to work at a time when the economy is begging for additional workers, it advances our economic interests. It’s good for the migrants and it’s less of a burden on government, including local state and federal government going back with the federal support.”
García added that he would like to see more action on employment authorization extended to immigrants who have been in the U.S. for years.
“We’re not forgetting about the 11 million or so people, who include Dreamers or DACA status holders, farm workers,” García said. “We tried to pass two bills in Congress … that would provide a pathway to citizenship for them. At the very least they want — and I think deserve — an opportunity to work peacefully and to contribute to the economy even more.”
García also weighed in on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s decision to pause health care coverage enrollment for immigrants. At the end of last month, Pritzker pointed out that nearly twice the amount of money his administration proposed was provided and costs still exceeded the budget.
“We are in dialogue with the governor, with legislative leaders as well, trying to get at whether or not the analysis that was done may have been overestimated or inflated and whether there is a lower true cost associated that would enable us to reach a better place in this,” García said. “But community groups feel very strongly that this is an important fight to win and that people should have access to health care. And if we don’t take care of them, now, we’re going to take care of them later and it’s going to be more costly.”
García also called the Supreme Court’s decisions on affirmative action and student loan debt a “huge setback.”
“It takes us back to the days of segregation and exclusion,” García said. “In my opinion, if we look at what happened in the state of California in their university systems there, when affirmative action was struck down at the University of California, the admission of minorities dropped by 40%. On the topic of student indebtedness and the court citing against those who are indebted that in Illinois, we ranked No. 7 in terms of how much people who graduated, who studied, owed — to the tune of $61 billion. That’s why I voted against the debts agreement and the legislation that Republicans passed out of the House of Representatives because it ends the ability to have student debt relief on the one hand. And it also resumes payments for those who are indebted to loan programs.”
Of Republicans’ stated opposition to raising the debt ceiling, García said, “There was no need to take us to the brink.”
In the end, García voted against the Fiscal Responsibility Act, one of 46 Democrats to do so.
“Extreme Republicans in particular wanted to take us into default or at least threaten to do so unless we made draconian cuts to the budget that would affect us in many different ways,” García said. “For Chicago, it would mean less money for roads and bridges, less money to improve at Midway and O’Hare Airport, less money for transit, safety and reliability. I wasn’t going to vote for something like that. It was needless to do so. We had increased the debt ceiling 29 times under both Republican and Democratic presidents. In the past, Congresses had acted responsibly. Once you pass a budget, it is implicit that you are required to come up with the revenues to do that.”