CHICAGO (CBS)– Illinois is set to become the first state to count Arab Americans when collecting public data.
After passing the Illinois legislature, the new bill, HB 3768, is on its way to Governor JB Pritzker. If passed, Arab Americans and minority groups from the Middle East will be separately recognized.
Currently, Arab Americans are categorized as white. The bill introduced in February will ensure that the Middle East and North African (MENA) racial category will be on official state government forms, studies and reports.
This data collected is used to inform local programs, funding and policy.
This comes after years-long reporting by CBS 2 that revealed the devastating impact of data not being collected on this group.
"[This bill] means that we exist as a community," said Nareman Taha, co-founder of the Arab American Family Services. "It means endless opportunities from education to public health."
That was no more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Arabs were among those dying at high rates in Illinois, CBS 2 found city and state agencies did not have a separate category tracking this information like they do for other groups. Therefore, organizations struggled to obtain funding for resources.
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May 19, 2023 at 08:28AM