Illinois Leaders Unite to Protect Refugee Children and Urge President Obama to Deliver Immediate Administrative Relief


August 28, 2014 | Chicago, IL

Community Leaders coordinate relief efforts and urge for the broadest administrative relief program to assist families

Faith, business, advocacy communities, and numerous Illinois organizations have formed an emergency alliance known as the Illinois Campaign to Protect Our Children and Families. Calling for immediate administrative relief for millions of hardworking undocumented immigrants and to protect the refugee children from Central America, the Campaign will rally leaders across Illinois on August 28th, as part of the National Day of Action.

WHAT: As a part of the August 28th National Day of Action, the coordinated Illinois Campaign aims to protect children fleeing Central America, and call on President Obama to grant immediate and broad administrative relief to keep families together.

WHEN: Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. CST

WHERE: Ann & Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago (225 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60611)

WHO: Coordinated by the Illinois Campaign to Protect Our Children and
Families, the event will feature remarks from Gov. Quinn, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Crate and Barrel Co-Founder and IBIC Co-Chair Carole Segal, Lurie Children’s Hospital President and CEO Patrick Magoon, Rabbi Seth M. Limmer, NIJC Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy, NALAAC’s Executive Director Oscar Chacon, Latino Policy Forum Executive Director Sylvia Puente, ICIRR CEO Lawrence Benito, as well as many political, faith, business, and community leaders.

WHY: Because of the lack of reform to immigration policies in the last 20 years, it is now up to President Obama to take immediate administrative action and grant the broadest possible relief to hard-working immigrant families in the United States as well as protect refugee children from Central America with adequate legal representation, food, shelter, education, health and mental health care. The majority of children fleeing violence come to the U.S. seeking refuge from Honduras, Guatemala, and
El Salvador—countries whose murder rates rank among the world’s highest.

The Campaign will assist in coordinating the flow of donated items and services, mobilize pro bono legal aid for detained children, ensure access to physical and mental health care, and amplify the collective voice advocating for justice and compassion in Springfield and on Capitol Hill on behalf of the affected children and their families. The offices of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will provide administrative support to the campaign’s efforts. Advocates stand ready to assist with implementation of any pending administrative relief through a coordinated effort reaching legal services, lawyers, nonprofit organizations, government agencies and businesses.

“We must remember that these are vulnerable children, many of whom have been victims of violence, and they need our compassion and assistance,” said Patrick Magoon, President and CEO of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. “We need to come together to protect them by providing them food, shelter, legal representation, health and mental health care.”

“The child refugee crisis on the border is a human tragedy. Many of these children have legitimate legal claims that they have been physically abused, or victimized by gangs or human traffickers. We have a moral and legal obligation to help them,” U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said. “Our nation was founded by refugees who were fleeing persecution and for generations our nation and our state have welcomed refugees. We’re about to be tested as to how our generation responds to this crisis and I am hopeful we will pass that test.”

“I am deeply concerned about the welfare of the unaccompanied children who are crossing our nation’s southern border, especially those fleeing violence, abuse and abandonment,” Governor Quinn said. “As I have told the Obama administration, the state of Illinois stands ready to help in any way we can to aid these children. We are committed to making Illinois the most welcoming state in the nation and will protect the most vulnerable. Now and always, we have a responsibility to ensure all children are treated with respect, compassion and dignity.”

"We must remember that they are vulnerable children fleeing horrendous violence. We thrive as a nation when we welcome immigrants, we are diminished when we do not. We must protect the children and we must keep families together through administrative relief and immigration reform now. Fixing our broken immigration system is economically important, politically smart, and morally right," said Carole Segal co-founder of Crate and Barrel, co-chair of Illinois Business Immigration Coalition.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently announced that his administration is making preparations to welcome unaccompanied child migrants by working with local organizations to identify one or more sites that could hold up to 1,000 beds. The Emanuel administration is evaluating the types of services needed to ensure that the children receive the best possible care while in Chicago and is also laying the foundation for a broad-based pro bono campaign that draws upon Chicago law firms. “The ‘City of Big Shoulders’ has shown that we are also the city of big hearts by welcoming the children fleeing violence in Central America,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “This crisis is a test of our compassion and values as a city and nation, and we will do our part to ensure that their rights are protected and they are given access to services.”

National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities Executive Director, Oscar Chacón, echoes the Mayor’s sentiment. “The increasing violence and insecurity that these Central American children are fleeing has its roots in a structural pattern of increasing economic inequality, especially in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. As a nation we must rethink our foreign policy approach in the region and look to work together with Central American governments for humane solutions that prioritize the wellbeing of children and families. The exodus of children from the region points to the failure of economic and development policies to produce genuine opportunities for people to live dignified lives in their home countries. Because of continued policy reform failures, it is now up to President Obama to take immediate administrative action and grant the broadest possible relief to hard-working immigrant families in the United States.”

“In times of need, the United States has historically welcomed those fleeing violence and harm. This time is no different,” explains NIJC Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy, whose agency provides legal services to immigrants and is engaged in advocacy through policy reform, impact litigation, and public education. “We must ensure that the rights of children are upheld. No child should go into immigration court alone. Children must have meaningful opportunities to explain their stories and pursue legal protections, such as asylum, that our country has long afforded refugees fleeing persecution.”

Celena Roldán-Moreno, Executive Director at Erie Neighborhood House—an organization that has worked for 144 years to affirm the dignity and capacity of all immigrants to reach their fullest potential—says, “It’s important to remember that these are children who are seeking our mercy and compassion in the face of violence in their home countries. We can’t—and we won’t—turn our backs on the vulnerable among us. That would simply be inconsistent with our mission as an organization.”

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Erie Neighborhood House (ENH) is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization that reaches 18,000 people annually, empowering them to build better lives while strengthening their communities. ENH offers Chicago’s Latinx and diverse low-income residents a range of community-based education programs. With forward-thinking leadership, ENH is committed to continuing its legacy of cost effective, award-winning programming. For more information, please visit

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