CHICAGO – Illinois has one of the largest populations of Arab Americans in the country, according to community leaders.
Yet, on most registration forms, where you are asked about your ethnic background, Arab American is not an option.
“It’s really important,” said Jeanine A. “There isn’t a way for me to represent my ethnicity. I have to choose ‘White’ or ‘other.'”
Thanks to a bill passed on Thursday in Springfield, that’s about to change. State Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid, the first Palestinian American elected to the state legislature, sponsored the bill.
“It’ll help us pass important legislation to serve the community,” Rashid said.
Community leaders said they have been pushing for this for years.
“For years, community members have been pushing for greater recognition,” said Nadia Ismail, a history teacher.
They believe the new ethnic identity designation will give the state important insight into health care, education and employment. For instance, during the pandemic, when they were handing out food at the Islamic Center, this data would have allowed them to better understand how much of the community received the vaccine, and how well it worked.
Gov. JB Pritzker tweeted his support for the bill, saying, “My office made this change years ago, and I look forward to signing this bill into law to ensure a more equitable Illinois.”
“This is a point where we want to be at,” said Irshad Khan with the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago. “We want to be counted. We want to be represented.”
Community leaders said they don’t have an accurate count of the number of Arab Americans in the state, just estimates. And, they said that will change and be among the first benefits when the law takes effect
– WLS-TV. Edited for style.