Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Illinois House overrides VOICES Act veto

By Greg Bishop
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD – It’s now law for police in Illinois to certify in a timely manner complaints of abuse or assault filed by illegal immigrants, who can then use such reports in working toward certain citizenship visas.

Gov. Bruce Rauner had vetoed Senate Bill 34, the Voices of Immigrant Communities Empowering Survivors, or VOICES, Act. The Senate passed it over his veto earlier this month. On Wednesday, the House did the same.

State Rep. Litesa Wallace, D-Rockford, who supported the measure, said it will protect immigrants who are crime victims, regardless of how they entered the country.

“This is not an automatic pathway to citizenship, but what it is is empowering individuals in our community who may be undocumented to come forth and talk about crimes that have happened which only moves or serves to make the rest of us, all of us, safer because we’re able to address the crimes these individuals are victims of,” Wallace said.

Illinois State Police said the measure could cost an extra $425,000 for additional staff to process requests within 90 days. There’s also the potential for more lawsuits against state police, the agency said in a fiscal note. It’s unclear how much it could cost local police agencies.

State Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee, said he was concerned that an illegal immigrant could potentially get special visa priority for merely reporting a crime.

“I am empathetic to someone who is a victim of crime,” Skillicorn said. “I think we should crack down on people who just do wrong things to other people. The idea of traffickers, we should go after that with the zealous regard that go after people who break the law and hurt other people.”

“But the idea that someone could make an accusation and get special visa treatment, I think that’s just a bridge too far,” Skillicorn said.

Supporters of the bill said there is a provision that allows police to rescind a certification of the allegations if the report is found to be unsubstantiated, something they said will cut down on any abuse of the process.

Illinois’ incoming governor, J.B. Pritzker, applauded the full override.

“The VOICES Act is critical legislation that protects immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking and other crimes, and I’m proud to see it enacted into law,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Illinois is a welcoming state, and I look forward to serving our 1.8 million immigrant residents as your governor.”

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