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Gov. Pritzker Signs 2 Bills In Defense Of Immigrant, Refugee Rights

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) -- Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker on Thursday signed two bills helping provide legal representation for immigrants in Cook County, and also launching a public information campaign statewide to ensure immigrants and refugees know their rights.

"The legislation I'm signing today builds on our nation-leading efforts to make Illinois a welcoming state for immigrants and refugees," Gov. Pritzker said in a news release. "I'm proud that these critical protections advance our mission to give our immigrant neighbors the equitable representation they deserve. Everyone should feel safe and secure in the place they call home and I remain committed to ensuring that our efforts to protect immigrant communities define what it means to live, work, and thrive in Illinois."

One bill, HB 709, requires the Illinois Department of Human Services and other state agencies to set up public information campaigns to help educate immigrants about their rights under the U.S. Constitution and state law.

The campaign will include resources and contact information for organization to help protect the rights of immigrant communities – including refugees, asylum seekers, and other noncitizens, regardless of immigration status, the Governor's office said.

"In America, every human being, regardless of citizenship status, maintains certain rights. That's something that a lot of people are unaware of, including those it impacts most," state Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz (D- Glenview) said in the release. "This important legislation provides that the Department of Human Services conduct a public information campaign to educate people about their rights."

The other bill, HB 2790, applies specifically to Cook County. It creates a means for the Cook County Public Defender's office to represent immigrants in removal or deportation proceedings in Cook County without fee or an appointment.

The legislation ensures there are no jurisdictional conflicts such as lawsuits to prevent county public defenders from representing clients in federal immigration court.

"Every person deserves representation in a courtroom, regardless of immigration status or income level. As an immigration and human rights attorney, this legislation is very personal to me," Rep. Gong-Gershowitz said in the release. "HB2790, Defenders for All, now allows Cook County Public Defenders to represent immigrants who lack legal representation during immigration proceedings."

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