CSC Alum Wins Damen Award

By: Mary Meg McCarthy, 2015 Damen Award Recipient

February 2, 2016

Loyola University of Chicago

Mary Meg McCarthy is a nationally respected advocate for immigrants and people who are underrepresented. As the executive director of Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), one of the nation’s leading immigrant and human rights advocacy organizations, McCarthy has grown the staff to 50 and developed an unparalleled network of more than 1,500 pro bono attorneys who provide legal services to 10,000 immigrants annually. With its unique combination of direct service, impact litigation, and advocacy, the NIJC promotes due process protections before the US Supreme Court, Congress, and the executive branch.

McCarthy has testified before congressional committees on human rights and immigration detention reform. A sought-after speaker at national and international conferences, McCarthy is quoted regularly in leading news outlets such as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and MSNBC. She is a commissioner for the American Bar Association Commission on Immigration and a member of the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights Steering Committee.

McCarthy has met with members of the Mexican Congress, academics, and civil society to address migration issues facing Mexico and Central America. She has toured detention centers throughout the US and gathered evidence of chilling civil rights abuses that permeate the US government’s immigration detention system.

Prior to joining the NIJC in 1998, McCarthy practiced civil litigation and served as a pro bono attorney for the NIJC’s asylum project. Earlier in her career, she worked in Chile, helping communities safeguard the rights of individuals living under a dictatorship. 

She is a recipient of numerous awards, including the Chicago Inn of Court 2015 Don Hubert Public Service Award, Pax Christi 2013 Teacher of Peace Award, the Robert Bellarmine Award for distinguished alumni from Loyola University Chicago’s School of Law, the Federal Bar Association's Sarah T. Hughes Civil Rights Award, and others. McCarthy recently delivered the keynote address at the University of San Diego’s 18th Annual Sister Sally Furay Lecture on the politics of immigration reform and refugee protection.