Karen Berkowitz Contact Reporter Pioneer Press

Highland Park-Highwood Legal Aid clinic officials say recent deportation raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement have raised anxieties in the immigrant community.

On Jan. 4, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced in a statement that enforcement actions had been taken the prior weekend to remove adults and children who had been apprehended crossing the southern border of the U.S. illegally since May 2014. The enforcement focused on people who had been issued final orders of removal and had exhausted legal remedies or appeals for asylum or humanitarian relief.

The announcement from Jeh Johnson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said 121 people had been taken into custody, primarily in North Carolina, Georgia and Texas.

"Not much information has been made public regarding the raids since the initial announcement in early January," said Fred Tsao, senior policy counsel for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. "The operation that was announced targeted Central American children and parents who were recently ordered deported, even if they missed their court dates or otherwise could not adequately make their case for humanitarian consideration.

"We are not aware of any raids in Illinois or elsewhere in the Chicago area."

He added, however, that other ICE actions have continued "and the community is on edge."

At the Highland Park-Highwood Legal Aid clinic, volunteer attorneys do not handle deportation cases, but the clinic can help immigrants prepare legal documents assigning short-term guardianship for a child in the event a parent is removed by immigration enforcement, according to a statement from the clinic. Attorneys also can assist with documents arranging guardianships for longer than one year.

The clinic also has kits available to help people prepare for a deportation emergency, according to the statement.

The clinic's managing attorney, Kathryn Vanden Berk, said a meeting of community service providers in late January underscored the value of advance planning.

"Without question, the greatest concern among potential deportees is caring for their children if they can no longer do it themselves," Vanden Berk said in a statement.

The kit, which was distributed with the statement, includes a checklist of important documents to have available, such as birth and marriage certificates, bank account numbers and immunization and medical records. The kit also includes a form for recording important details, like the names of relatives, doctors, children's school schedules — even a child's favorite toy.

Families with questions or concerns regarding the emergency planning kit can contact the Highland Park-Highwood Legal Aid clinic by calling 847-926-1867 or by emailing info@hphlegalaid.org.

The clinic's hours are 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Wednesday and from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday. The clinic is at 1830 Green Bay Road in Highland Park.

Legal clinic can assist immigrants with guardianship papers - Highland Park News