HomeArticleTRP Joins Elected Officials, Faith Leaders and Advocates to Celebrate Historic Creation of Cook County Public Defender’s Immigration Office

TRP Joins Elected Officials, Faith Leaders and Advocates to Celebrate Historic Creation of Cook County Public Defender’s Immigration Office

(Chicago, IL) – Yesterday morning, in a virtual meeting with immigrant advocacy organizations, faith leaders, and criminal justice reform advocates, the Defenders for All coalition joined Congressman Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia, Congressman Mike Quigley, President Toni Preckwinkle, Public Defender Amy Campanelli, Cook County Commissioners, Alma Anaya, Brandon Johnson, John Daley, Bill Lowry, Dennis Deer, Bridget Degnen, and the Vera Institute of Justice to celebrate the creation and funding of the Cook County Public Defender’s Immigration Unit.

The Immigration Unit will be only the third office of it’s kind in the nation, joining San Francisco and Alameda County as the only other two jurisdictions. The office will work to guarantee every person, especially individuals from underfunded and over-policed Black and Brown communities receive proper legal representation.

Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Padilla v. Kentucky ruling, Public Defender offices across the country are mandated to provide adequate representation and inform their clients whether a criminal plea carries any risk to their immigration status.

The celebratory event took place one day after the inauguration of President Biden and the release of his administration’s immigration reform proposal which seeks to provide a pathway to citizenship to millions of undocumented immigrants and their mixed-status families, helping to strengthen our nation’s ability to recover and rebuild from COVID-19. This change in administration and the proposal for reforming our immigration policies mark a stark change in federal immigration priorities and the rhetoric that demonized immigrant communities across the country for the last four years. It also serves as a reminder that local changes to immigration policies are just as important. Last week, Public Defender Campanelli joined other public defenders from across the country in calling on President Joe Biden to adopt a 10-point program that would give immigrants in deportation proceedings access to attorneys.

This lack of representation disproportionately affects people of color, especially the Black immigrant community. In fact, 76% of Black immigrants’ deportation hearings are based on criminal grounds but for the immigrant community as a whole, that number is only 45%. Furthermore, Black immigrants make up 7.2% of the immigrant population, yet account for 20% of criminal based immigration proceedings. This disparity is unacceptable. The creation of a dedicated immigration unit within the Cook County Public Defender’s Office is a step in the right direction towards real justice.

Irakere Picon from the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition stated, “the Defenders for All coalition is proud to have collaborated with President Preckwinkle, Public Defender Campanelli, and the Cook County Board to become only the third county in the nation to have a dedicated team of immigration attorneys ready to represent immigrants from underfunded communities. We will keep collaborating with the County so that we can continue our work and make sure to lift up Cook as a champion for immigrants.”

Furthermore, the Cook County Public Defender’s Office and the Vera Institute of Justice announced that Cook County will be joining Vera’s SAFE Initiative – a nationwide collaboration among governments, lawyers, and advocates working together to build a movement for universal representation.

 “We are proud that Cook County is joining Vera’s SAFE Initiative and look forward to them being a leader in the national movement for universal representation, especially during this moment of change and opportunity for our country. The radiating impacts of mass detention, separation, and deportation on immigrant community members and their families will outlast any federal administration unless leaders on all levels of government take bold action. We commend the bold steps taken by Cook County and applaud the efforts of the Defenders for All Coalition, the Public Defender’s Office, Representatives Quigley and Garcia, the Board of Commissioners, and President Preckwinkle who helped to chart the path forward.”

The Defenders for All Coalition (D4A) represents over 40 organizations that support the creation of a dedicated immigration unit within the Cook County Public Defender’s Office. Learn more at DefendersForAll.org. Follow D4A’s work on Facebook and Twitter:

The Resurrection Project • Illinois Business Immigration Coalition • Westside Justice Center • Chicago Community Bond Fund • HANA Center • Organized Communities Against Deportation • The Bail Project • Southwest Organizing Project • Shiller Preyar Law • United African Organization • Logan Square Neighborhood Association • The People’s Lobby • Beyond Legal Aid • Immigration & Legal Center of the BIHD • The Immigration Project • Ecker Center for Behavioral Health • Ascend Justice • Centro de Información • Alianza Hispanoamericana NFP, Inc. • North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic • Partners for Our Communities • Northwest Side Housing Center • Chicago Volunteer Legal Services • Western Illinois Dreamers • Indo-American Center • Instituto del Progreso Latino • Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors • Chinese American Service League • National Immigrant Justice Center • Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community • BUILD Chicago • The ACE Project • World Relief Chicagoland • Spanish Community Center • American Immigration Lawyers Association, Chicago • Future Ties NFP • African Global Chamber of Commerce • Farmworker and Landscaper Advocacy Project • Chicago Workers Collaborative • Centro de Trabajadores Unidos • Equity and Transformation • Latino Policy Forum • Chicago Community & Worker’s Rights