Illinois state senators approved a measure Wednesday aimed at helping immigrants who are victims of criminal activity. It was vetoed earlier this year by Governor Bruce Rauner.
The so-called Voices Act would speed up immigration paperwork for undocumented people who are victims of things like human trafficking or sexual abuse. Crime victims qualify for special kinds of visas protecting them from deportation.
State Representative Juliana Stratton, a Chicago Democrat and Lieutenant Governor-elect, says some immigrants who are crime victims are scared to call police.
“Communities depend on them," she explained. "We have to ensure that victims of crimes feel safe reporting those crimes to the appropriate authorities, regardless of citizenship.”
In his veto message, Rauner called the measure an “unfunded mandate,” and warned the state would be swamped with new visa applications.
State Representative Litesa Wallace, a Rockford Democrat, calls that suggestion unfair.
It is very painful to hear questions that imply that people will rampantly abuse something like that," she told reporters at a news conference Wednesday. "It takes everything in your being to even come forward and say that ‘this thing happened to me.’”
The Voices Act will still need House approval before becoming law. If it passes, Illinois police would have to submit crime reports from immigrants to federal authorities within 90 days.