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Statement of Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director, Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center
Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) applauds the Cook County Board of Commissioners’ passage yesterday of resolution 16-1065, condemning U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids on Central American asylum seekers and their families. We are grateful to the commissioners for supporting a humane response to our hemisphere’s refugee crisis by including in the resolution a call for President Obama to designate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The resolution was introduced by Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
Cook County has a long history of welcoming people fleeing persecution and seeking safety, and has worked hard to build trust with immigrant communities who often worry that any encounter with law enforcement or ICE could lead to deportation for them or a loved one. When ICE first announced in late December that it would begin arresting asylum seekers, NIJC heard from clients and families who were afraid to leave their homes, attend school, and participate in daily life. Knowing that our local government  will not tolerate these inhumane raids is critical to ensuring that people feel safe to seek legal counsel, attend their court hearings, and engage in the legal process to obtain protection. It also will help families feel more secure to come forward and apply for deferred action once the U.S. Supreme Court rules in June that the president’s immigration executive action programs may proceed.  
Rampant violence in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala is forcing families and children to run for their lives. Women and children are increasingly targeted for violence by criminal organizations and drug cartels. El Salvador recently overtook Honduras as the murder capital of the world, and El Salvador and Guatemala are rated first and third for highest murder rates of women. With its resolution, Cook County joins a growing national chorus demanding TPS protection for individuals from these countries. 
We thank the Cook County Board for their leadership to uphold America’s commitment to justice and human rights, and for assuring families and communities that the county will do whatever it can to keep them safe and allow them the opportunity to pursue protections provided under U.S. law.