Erie House Files Amicus Brief in Lawsuit Aimed at Protecting Chicago’s Welcoming Ordinance

Erie Neighborhood House has filed an amicus brief to signal its support for the City of Chicago’s lawsuit against the US Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding changes made to the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) requirements aimed at undermining sanctuary city policies.

“We know how essential immigrants are to the beauty and vitality of our neighborhoods, our city and our country. We are strongest when everyone is welcome,” said Kirstin Chernawsky, executive director at Erie House. “This administration is trying to advance a different narrative, but it amounts to baseless propaganda.”

The City of Chicago filed its lawsuit against the DOJ over the new JAG requirements on Monday, August 7. Unless an injunction is placed on the DOJ’s amendments, the city would be forced to choose between forsaking its Welcoming City Ordinance or going without up to $3 million in critical funding for community policing efforts.

Chernawsky explains that Erie House—today the city’s oldest operating settlement house with a nearly 150-year history—reaches more than 5,500 low-income, primarily immigrant individuals each year without regard for status or background.

“Our communities would suffer from dramatically reduced amounts of safety and trust in law enforcement if Chicago were to forsake its Welcoming City Ordinance in order to comply with the DOJ’s unjust demands,” said Chernawsky. “But the prospect of the city losing critical funding for community policing efforts also inflicts harm on our vulnerable children and families already living in high poverty, high crime areas of the city.”

The Center for American Progress reports that sanctuary counties witness an average of 35.5 fewer crimes committed per 10,000 people when compared to non-sanctuary counties. Case studies also show a drastic reduction in the number of crimes reported in Latino communities when residents fear local law enforcement is collaborating with federal immigration authorities.

“Chicago’s sanctuary policies help keep our people and communities safe,” Chernawsky observed. “They encourage residents to report crimes without fearing they or a loved one will be detained or deported because of their immigration status.”

Erie House worked with Drinker Biddle & Reath LLC to prepare the amicus brief. According to Chernawsky, it is being filed the same day as a separate amicus brief in support of the city’s lawsuit drafted by the National Immigrant Justice Center.

Erie House is a member of the city’s Chicago is With You Task Force, launched in 2016 to collaborate on mental health, legal services, diversity training for employers and education to ensure the comprehensive delivery of services to immigrant, refugee and other disenfranchised communities.This news release is supported by the following Task Force members and partner organizations:

  • CAIR-Chicago
  • Chicago Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association
  • Indo-American Center
  • Instituto del Progreso Latino
  • The Resurrection Project
  • Southwest Organizing Project
  • Syrian Community Network
  • University Church of Chicago
  • United African Organization
  • UNITEHERE, Local 1

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