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Gov. Pritzker Signs Legislation Expanding Racial Classification Categories

Press Release - Friday, August 04, 2023

CHICAGO — Governor JB Pritzker today signed House Bill 3768, expanding racial classification categories when reporting statistical data within state agencies. The legislation amends the Uniform Racial Classification Act to create a "Middle Eastern or North African" (MENA) category.

"Here in Illinois, we are committed to instilling the values of inclusion and equity in every department of state government," said Governor JB Pritzker. "That's why this legislation is an important step in ensuring proper representation for every individual in our great state. When it comes to distributing resources and providing support from our state's agencies, we need to be sure every single Illinoisan is accounted for—leaving no one behind."

"When we tell the story of Illinois, it must reflect the diversity of our state and do so accurately and with intention," said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. "This expansion is critical in ensuring every voice in Illinois is seen, heard, and represented authentically."

The amendment will require agencies to include the MENA category in addition to white, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander when reporting statistical data on ethnic or racial categories. This requirement will go into effect on July 1, 2025.

This legislation was an initiative of State Representative Abdelnasser Rashid and is supported by the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS) to expand recognition and inclusion of this category in the State's data practice, including in the context of personnel. It is also sponsored by State Senator Ram Villivalam, as well as advocates and multiple community organizations.

"I am proud to see Illinois become the first state to count Arab Americans and minorities from the Middle East," said State Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid (D-Chicago). "This information will allow for a more comprehensive understanding of the experiences our communities face and will give us the tools we need to develop better policies."

"Through updating how our state's agencies collect data to correspond with the growing Middle Eastern population in Illinois, this law will reduce inequalities and grow diversity in our state government workforce, among other areas," said State Senator Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago). "It's vital that we study growing populations and become more inclusive within our agencies to best represent all of our communities in the state of Illinois."

"We are so proud that Illinois is leading the nation as the first state to include a Middle Eastern and North African category in its racial and ethnic data collection," said Nareman Taha, co-founder of the Arab American Family Services (AAFS), the largest Arab American multiservice organization in Illinois.

"For the first time in history, government agencies and community organizations like AAFS, will have the data needed to understand and improve the health, education, and economic conditions of Arab American families," said Itedal Shalabi, AAFS co-founder and Executive Director. "We will have the power to document the growing need and to secure equitable resources. It's a brand-new world where we are no longer invisible, where we are seen and recognized."

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