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Mary Margaret McCarthy Awarded Honorary Degree

Mary Margaret McCarthy, Executive Director, National Immigrant Justice Center, is awarded an honorary degree by Teresa Amott, president of Knox College.

Citation read by Tianna Cervantez '06, lecturer in anthropology-sociology and director of multicultural student advisement.

President Amott, I am honored to present Mary Margaret McCarthy, executive director of the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), for the degree of Doctor of Laws.

When reading about Mary Margaret McCarthy's professional career, phrases like "tireless commitment," "a model for attorneys," and "dedication and expertise" are repeated time and again. An impressive list of awards is mentioned, including the Ruth Goldman Award, the Elmer Gertz Award for Human Rights, the Don Hubert Public Service Award, the Pax Christi 2013 Teacher of Peace Award, and Loyola University's Damen Award. Statements praising her various professional and personal attributes from her colleagues are common. For example:

"[Her leadership] has placed NIJC at the forefront of the struggle to make our courts, our government, the legal community and the broader society recognize that immigrant rights are human rights, fundamental to our democracy," wrote Chicago lawyer Kalman D. Resnick in his letter nominating Ms. McCarthy for the Elmer Gertz Award.

NIJC Associate Director of Legal Services Lisa Koop, who nominated Ms. McCarthy for the Justice John Paul Stevens Award, says, "Her dedication and expertise motivates us to find new ways to provide legal services for a growing immigrant population."

Put all of these together, and a picture of an internationally recognized lawyer and tireless advocate for human rights quickly emerges.

Ms. McCarthy received her bachelor of business administration in finance from the University of Notre Dame and her doctor of law from Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Early in her career, she worked in communities throughout Chile to help safeguard the rights of individuals under a dictatorship. McCarthy then joined the NIJC, one of the nation's preeminent immigrant and human rights advocacy organizations, in 1997. Under her leadership, the NIJC has implemented a unique approach integrating advocacy, impact litigation, direct service, and public education to make it one of the nation's leading human rights organizations. NIJC's contributions to national and international analysis and debate regarding reform of immigration law, policy, and practices are well-known throughout the local, national, and international advocacy community. NIJC has litigated at the U.S. Supreme Court, in 11 U.S. Courts of Appeals, and in 17 U.S. District Courts, challenging illegal immigration practices and promoting positive refugee jurisprudence.

Over the course of her career, Ms. McCarthy has grown NIJC from a $1 million to a $8 million organization with nearly 90 legal professionals and a network of 1,500 pro bono attorneys, who are essential to providing legal counsel to more than 10,000 low-income immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers each year. NIJC and its pro bono attorneys have been on the vanguard of federal impact litigation and advocacy, setting positive precedents for those seeking human rights protections within our borders.

As a recognized immigration law expert, Ms. McCarthy has testified before Congress and at the United Nations and is frequently quoted in major news outlets, including MSNBC, The New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune. An active member of the American Bar Association, she chairs its Commission on Immigration. She is a member of The Chicago Network, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and the Chicago Bar Association. Ms. McCarthy presented at the Strategic Litigation for Change Conference in Belfast and, in 2017, delivered the commencement address at Loyola University of Chicago School of Law. She currently serves as a trustee for the Catholic Theological Union, Chicago.

President Amott, in recognition of her commitment to human rights advocacy and her contributions to immigration law and her community, I present Mary Margaret McCarthy for the degree of Doctor of Laws.

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Printed on Sunday, June 23, 2024