Chicago Attorney General Lisa Madigan today urged members of the Illinois House to pass legislation to strengthen Illinois' hate crimes law. House Bill 3711 better protects Illinois residents from escalating incidents of hatred and bias.
House Bill 3711, sponsored by state Rep. Litesa Wallace and Sen. Omar Aquino, passed out of the House Judiciary — Criminal Committee by a vote of eight to five and will now be considered by the full chamber. Madigan initiated the legislation in response to a national increase of crimes motivated by hatred based on religion, national origin, gender identity and sexual orientation since the 2016 election. The legislation also ensures all victims of hate crimes are afforded the ability to file a civil cause of action in response to such incidents and imposes civil penalties.
"No one should live in fear because of who they are, where they are from or what they believe," Madigan said. "The recent increase in hate crimes is deeply troubling, and we must strengthen our hate crimes law to help all of the people of Illinois feel safe."
Chicago Police Department data shows that hate crimes reached a five-year high in 2016 and are outpacing that level in 2017, according to reports. The Southern Law Poverty Center also reported nearly 1,100 hate incidents nationally in the month after last fall's election.
HB 3711 strengthens the Illinois Hate Crimes Act by:
Expanding the reach of protection from hate crimes to address perpetrators' increased use of technology to attack victims. The measure adds the existing crimes of intimidation, stalking, cyberstalking and transmission of obscene messages to the list of crimes that can be prosecuted as hate crimes.
Providing the Attorney General with civil enforcement authority by giving the Attorney General's office the authority to initiate civil suits on behalf of hate crime victims. Illinois would join at least six other states that have similar authority.
Ensuring all victims of hate crimes are afforded a civil remedy. Offenses such as telephone harassment, harassment through electronic communications or disorderly conduct cannot give rise to civil cause of action under Illinois' current hate crimes law, and HB 3711 closes the gap.
Allowing judges to impose a civil penalty of up to $25,000 for each violation.
"As a parent, I worry about my child, or any child, being targeted because of the color of their skin, the God they worship, the country their parents came from or their sexual identity," Rep. Wallace said. "This legislation sends a clear message that the people of Illinois will not tolerate hatred and bigotry."
Last month, Attorney General Madigan convened a summit with civil rights leaders to discuss the impact of federal Executive Orders on the nearly 2 million immigrants who live in Illinois. Madigan condemned the Executive Orders as unconstitutional, unlawful and un-American and filed amicus briefs in support of challenges to the executive actions.
In the wake of the executive orders, Madigan also called on Governor Rauner to refuse to deputize Illinois law enforcement to act as immigration officers and protect Illinois immigrants and refugees from discrimination and hate crimes. Madigan has also urged the Governor to restore the Illinois Hate Crimes Commission.
The Attorney General also issued advice about the possibility of scam artists and unscrupulous immigration services providers illegally posing as lawyers or demanding up-front fees for assistance in the wake of the executive actions.
Attorney General Madigan's Civil Rights Bureau protects the civil rights of all Illinois residents. The Bureau enforces civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination, works to strengthen the civil rights laws, and participates in community outreach programs. The Bureau also investigates complaints of patterns and practices of discrimination in housing, public accommodations, employment, and financial matters. Attorney General Madigan encourages individuals to contact her office to report instances of discrimination or harassment by calling her Civil Rights Hotline at 1-877-581-3692.