Due to the global pandemic, RAC-IL pivoted to a COVID-19 Agenda to meet immediate needs prioritized by our coalition partners in both our priority areas, as follows:
Our primary partner, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), led efforts to advocate for Illinois to provide emergency relief related to COVID-19 for immigrant families who were excluded from federal stimulus and assistance programs. The campaign resulted in major investments of more than $90 million to immigrant communities in response to the pandemic, including:
- An increase in the Immigrant services Line Item from $6.5 million to $30 million,
- $30 million in state funding for Department of Human Services welcoming centers for immigrants, and
- An allocation of $32 million from federal COVID relief to assist families affected by the pandemic.
- RAC-IL was involved in all aspects of this campaign, including:
- Co-sponsorship with three other Jewish organizations of Jewish Action Days for Immigrant Justice
- Virtual Advocacy Days sponsored by ICIRR
- Sign-on to Phase 1 Platform Demands
- Participation in multiple call-in/text mini-campaigns to state legislators and U.S. senators, and
- Personal outreach to targeted state legislators identified by ICIRR organizers.
Criminal Justice Reform
With the onset of COVID-19 and the shutdown of the Illinois General Assembly, our partners at the End Money Bond Coalition pivoted to urging county officials to dramatically lower the number of people held in jails. In particular, they led a campaign to de-carcerate Cook County Jail in Chicago, which was noted by the New York Times as a major hotspot for COVID-19. Through May 2020, more than 600 individuals at Cook County Jail have tested positive for the virus, and seven people held in jail as well as three corrections officials have lost their lives. The campaign resulted in the release of more than 1,300 people held incarcerated—including many held pre-trial due to lack of ability to pay bail.
RAC-IL participated in this campaign through:
- Running a call-in day that turned out 172 calls to targeted decision makers from 62 leaders representing 14 congregations
- Generating six clergy letters—twice the number of any other faith group—in less than 12 hours at the request of the Cook County Board President, and
- Participating in a socially-distanced faith leader gathering outside the Cook County Jail, resulting in media coverage of the issue. similar