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Middle Eastern, North African Race Checkbox Added to IL state forms

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Thursday, May 25, 2023   

Illinois is making history as the first state to collect Middle Eastern and North African representation data on all state forms and surveys.

With the passage of House Bill 3768 Illinois will count Arab Americans and other minorities from the Middle East and North Africa.

Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid, D-Bridgeview, said the data collected is far more than just symbolic.

"You are valued, and you will no longer be invisible in the data," Rashid explained. "When the census was being done in 2020, Arab American organizations were encouraging people to write under the 'other' section to say Middle Eastern or Arab or Palestinian or whatever your background was. They have been defaulted to 'white,' so we have been completely invisible in the data."

The 2020 census was supposed to have a checkbox for Middle Eastern and North African residents, but it was removed by President Donald Trump prior to data collection.

Arab communities have been fighting to be included in the census for decades, so it is not a new idea but Rashid said it finally allows for them to be seen. Rashid argued the data will have real-world effects, and they will be able to see outcomes in health care, education, employment and economics and get a glimpse into what the needs and challenges are. Once there is enough data, they will know how to make adjustments to serve the communities better. He encouraged people to use the checkbox.

"This data, once it starts being collected and once we have enough of it, will give us really important insights," Rashid contended. It will become very important to help us understand the lives and needs of the Arab American community in Illinois."

Gov. JB Pritzker tweeted this week history had been made and he looks forward to signing the bill into law to ensure a more equitable Illinois.


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House Bill passed with an overwhelming vote of 94-6, with three abstentions. Its companion, Senate Bill 159, passed unanimously with a vote of 34-0. (Chad Robertson/Adobe Stock)

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