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After ICE raid concerns at Evanston street fair, Cook County drops ‘homeland security’ from department’s name
Cook County has dropped the phrase "homeland security” from the department responsible for emergency management.

Monday, October 28, 2019
Chicago Tribune
by Jennifer Fisher

After ICE raid concerns at Evanston street fair, Cook County drops ‘homeland security’ from department’s name

PIONEER PRESS |
OCT 28, 2019 | 3:45 PM

 

After ICE raid concerns at Evanston street fair, Cook County drops ‘homeland security’ from department’s name

By JENNIFER FISHER

PIONEER PRESS |

OCT 28, 2019 | 3:45 PM

Cook County has dropped the phrase "homeland security” from the department responsible for emergency management.

What was formerly known as the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, is now called the Department of Emergency Management and Regional Security, according to a news release from the agency last week.

Cook County Board Commissioner Larry Suffredin, D-13th, co-sponsored the bill to rename the department and said the change was made in part because of concerns raised at the Custer Fair festival in Evanston this past June.

At that event, the Evanston Fire Department used a mobile command center supplied by Cook County as a street barricade. The truck, which houses communications and weather equipment, was emblazoned with a Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management logo and the letters “DHSEM.”

After the festival, more than 500 people signed a petition calling on the city of Evanston to ban the use of the truck, saying it “brought fear and distrust into our community,” particularly in light of ongoing threats of mass deportation by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

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ICE is overseen by the federal Department of Homeland Security — a separate agency from Cook County’s emergency management department.

Evanston, IL Police

@EvanstonPD

#Evanston PD and @EvanstonFD have teamed up with @CookCountyDHSEM to provide security at the Custer Fair. That includes this command van and proactive barricades. This van is no way affiliated with ICE - Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

But that distinction wasn’t obvious, particularly to immigrants who may not speak English as a first language, according to Evanston resident Alejandra L. Ibañez, who created the petition along with two other residents.

“Seeing that DHS logo really scared folks off,” said Ibañez. “And it started a conversation that has opened up and lifted off all other kinds of issues.”

Suffredin said he began working to rename the Cook County department the day he heard about the incident at Custer Fair.

“The changing of the name, I felt, would be the most appropriate way to assure people that this is a county agency here to help you — not a federal agency you should be afraid of,” he said.

Suffredin said Cook County’s emergency management department was created after 9/11 to receive and distribute federal funds devoted to the region’s disaster planning and response. That includes funds from the federal Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and other federal agencies.

Among its major responsibilities, the county department trains thousands of first responders and processes money that comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist the area after floods and other natural disasters, Suffredin said.

“It really has no Homeland Security direct responsibilities," he said.

Furthermore, Suffredin noted that Cook County is a sanctuary county, meaning that officials don't ask about immigration status. Cook County also has an ordinance stipulating that county officials will not comply with ICE requests to detain individuals unless ICE agents supply a criminal warrant.

Ibañez said she feels the name change is a step in the right direction, but believes there is still more work to do.

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“While I’m appreciative that some of the commissioners are being more receptive or responsive to immigrants who have reason to really be fearful … this is a conversation that we’ve just begun,” she said. “This is just the beginning.”

Cook County has already begun switching over the website to reflect the new name.

Physical objects including equipment and vehicles will be rebranded with the new name and a new seal over the next few months, according to Natalia Derevyanny, director of communications for the Cook County Bureau of Administration.

Jennifer Fisher is a freelance reporter.



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