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With New President, Cook County Leaders, Chicago Advocates Press For Immigration Reform

A new county resolution demands President Biden reverse Trump-era executive orders and policies “designed to directly and indirectly harm, confuse, intimidate” immigrants.

An immigration rally in Chicago.
Darryl Holliday/DNAinfo
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CHICAGO — Local immigration advocates and elected officials are pushing President Joe Biden to move quickly to undo federal immigration policies of his predecessor that ushered in more crackdowns on undocumented residents, family separations at the border and massive cuts to refugee programs.

Cook County commissioners passed a resolution Thursday calling on Biden and Congress to rescind Trump’s executive orders on immigration, halt deportations until legislators can agree upon immigration reform, reunite hundreds of children separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border, and reinstate refugee programs and restore previous asylum policies, among other sweeping demands.

The Cook County resolution, introduced by Commissioner Alma Anaya, comes at the heels of Chicago voting to strengthen its sanctuary city ordinance, which now eliminates exceptions that allowed the Chicago Police Department to collaborate with federal immigration agents in certain scenarios.

Within his first hours of office, Biden signed an executive order cancelling the Muslim travel ban, which had blocked citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from traveling to the U.S. He also signed orders halting construction of the border wall and calling on the Department of Homeland Security to “preserve and fortify” DACA, which protects some non-citizens brought to the U.S. from deportation.

Anaya lauded Biden for those immediate actions but said those only constitute “the first steps.”

“It is important that all policy reforms to the immigration system are long-lasting and inclusive,” Anaya said at a press conference.

U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia agreed and said he was working with colleagues in the house to restore “dignity and compassion into our immigration system.”

“What we have seen from this White House is good, but let me be clear, it will take leadership from every level of government to undo the trauma and damage the Trump administration inflicted,” he said.

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle offered her support on the resolution, which represented “a call to action on immigration.”

Preckwinkle said county leaders have worked for years on immigration policy by passing a sanctuary ordinance and most recently establishing an immigration unit in the Cook County Public Defender’s office.

“We are calling on the federal government to implement policies to protect the immigrant community and inject empathy into our immigration systems,” Preckwinkle said. “Unfortunately, neither of the last two administrations had policies of which we can be proud.”

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, National Immigrant Justice Center, United African Organization, Latino Policy Forum, Mujeres Latinos En Accion all have support the resolution, as well.

Immigrant communities and advocates battled through an onslaught of “attacks” from the Trump administration, said Fred Tsao, senior policy counsel at ICIRR. Now the federal government needs to provide long-standing relief and fixes to our “deeply flawed immigration system.”

Julian Lazalde, civic engagement and policy analyst at the National Immigrant Justice Center, said the new administration needs support from advocacy groups but also pressure to follow through with its campaign pledges.

With the Cook County resolution, the city’s update to the welcoming ordinance, and a number of efforts by various groups, Lazalde said they hoped to “make Cook County, Chicago, and Illinois as welcoming of a state as possible.”

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