SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTVO) — Illinois is set to become the first state in the nation to include Arab Americans when collecting public data.
The new bill, HB 3768, passed legislature and is now on the way to Governor JB Pritzker’s desk, according to WBBM. Arab Americans and Middle Eastern minority groups will be separately recognized if it is passed.
“It happened, right? I mean, oh my God, the feeling? Unbelievable,” said Itedal Shalabi, co-founder and executive director of Arab American Family Services. “It was just an unbelievable feeling. It was like, ‘oh my God, we did it.'”
Arab Americans are currently categorized as white. A Middle East and Northen African (MENA) racial category will be on state government forms, reports and studies if the bill, which was introduced in February, becomes law.
“It sends a message to the Arab American community that you are valued, you are seen,” State Representative and bill sponsor Abdelnasser Rashid said.
By doing so, the state will collect data that will help Arab communities receive housing, education and root out any health disparities.
Pritzker is expected to sign the bill. Arab American Family Services hopes that the new Illinois law will inspire other states.