Updated at 3:18 p.m.
Illinois anti-discrimination laws for tenants don’t cover protections based on immigration status. For years, advocates have been trying to expand those protections to immigrants.
Advocates got one step closer when the Immigrant Tenant Protection Act passed the Illinois General Assembly earlier this week. Now, advocates are urging Gov. JB Pritzker to sign the bill into law.
“As of right now, Illinois law doesn’t protect tenants based on immigration status. That’s what the bill does. It goes above and beyond our existing protections to make sure that people who are unprotected now, immigrants, are safe from harassment and retaliation,” said Kevin Herrera, an attorney with the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.
The legislation prohibits landlords from disclosing the immigration status of a tenant with the intent of intimidation or retaliation. It also prohibits landlords from seeking eviction due to the citizenship status of a tenant.
Herrera said the law is needed because landlords have harassed and retaliated against immigrants when they’ve reported poor living conditions.
“There’s no reason that an immigrant tenant should be subject to abuses that a citizen tenant is protected from,” Herrera said. “This bill will go a long way to make sure that immigrants have access to stable housing.”
The Pritzker administration is reviewing the legislation, said press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh.
State Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, and state Rep. Theresa Mah, D-Chicago, sponsored the bill. Castro said immigrants in Illinois needed the protection.
“My bill protects tenants by allowing them to feel comfortable and free to interact with law enforcement or code enforcement when reporting issues or crimes in their neighborhood without fear that landlords will retaliate or utilize their immigrant status as a threat,” she said. “There also have been reported instances where bad landlords will raise a tenant’s rent without proper notice and, if they objected, were threatened to be reported to [immigration enforcement authorities].”
Last year, Castro and Mah sponsored a similar bill that passed both chambers of the state legislature only to be vetoed by former Gov. Bruce Rauner. That bill was one of three immigration-related bills that Rauner vetoed, calling them “very important bad bills,” the Sun-Times reported.
“We should not be tying the hands of any property owners in the state or supporting illegal immigration in that way,” Rauner said.
Castro said she modeled her bill after legislation from California, which passed a similar law with the same name in 2017. The California legislation awards immigrant tenants monetary damages if landlords are found guilty of threatening tenants with calling immigration officials or retaliating against them with eviction.
María Ines Zamudio is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her @mizamudio.