Cecilia Abundis is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and is the first woman in her family to obtain a post-graduate degree. She was born and raised in Chicago, attending a CPS elementary school. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and earned her J.D. from DePaul University College of Law. While at DePaul, Cecilia participated in the Chiapas Human Rights Practicum, a community-based learning service program. In 2002, she wrote a report on the internal displacement in the lower-northern zone in Chiapas that was submitted to the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations.
Cecilia was featured in Negocias Now's "2020 Who's Who in Hispanic Chicago in Government." In 2015, she was awarded the Excellence in Legal Service award by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund at its Chicago Gala. Cecilia is also the recipient of the 2006 Distinguished Alumni Service Award from the Latino Law Student Association of DePaul University College of Law.
Cecilia's Legal Career
Cecilia Abundis has spent her 19-year legal career in public service. She began working at the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) during her second year of law school, where she assisted Spanish-speaking clients. When Cecilia obtained her 711 temporary license during her last year of law school, she, and her supervising attorney, represented renters in eviction court. Seeing the need for representation of renters facing discrimination, Cecilia became an Equal Justice Works ("EJW") Fellow in 2004. As an EJW Fellow, she created the source of income project at LCBH where she represented renters who were victims of housing discrimination and/or facing eviction.
After her two-year fellowship with LCBH, Cecilia joined the Consumer Fraud Bureau of Illinois Attorney General’s Office in 2006. In her capacity as an Assistant Attorney General, she investigated companies and/or individuals for violations of Illinois’ consumer protection laws. Some of these include:
- During the housing crisis, cases against national mortgage lenders and servicers for selling risky and costly loans products to borrowers who could not afford them and for steering Latino and African-American borrowers into higher cost home loans. Also, cases against various mortgage brokers for mortgage rescue fraud.
- Cases against unauthorized immigration services providers and "notarios" in Cook, Lake, and Winnebago Counties for defrauding immigrants out of thousands of dollars for immigration services they did not provide; for misleading consumers and in some instances for deceiving immigrants that they work for a governmental agency that could assist them with their immigration status.
- For-profit schools for deceiving students into enrolling into programs that qualified them for employment, leaving the students saddled with student loan debt.
- Car dealerships and rebuilders for advertising violations; bait and switch; and other deceptive practices in Cook and DuPage Counties.
- Multinational auto manufacturers and suppliers for undermining auto emissions regulations with unlawful defeat devices.
- Multi-state case against an auto finance company for improperly charging fees for forced-placed collateral insurance to auto finance borrowers.
While at the Attorney General's Office, Cecilia also taught trial techniques in Spanish for Mexican prosecutors, utilizing the NITA-style of critiquing, including video review. This was an initiative of the Conference of Western Attorneys General's Alliance Partnership, and the trainings were conducted in conjunction with other U.S. state assistant attorney's general. In these trainings, Cecilia taught closing arguments, evidentiary foundations, and the direct and cross examination of expert witnesses.
Then, in 2019, Cecilia was appointed Director of the Division of Professional Regulation at the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and served in this capacity for four years. The Division is responsible for the licensing and regulation of more than one million licensees, in more than 70 professions. As Director, Cecilia managed a division of 200+ employees with seven sections, including – Cannabis Control, Medical Cannabis, Chief Medical Coordinator; Nursing Unit; Statewide Enforcement; Licensing and Testing; and Cemeteries. During her 4-year tenure as Director, Cecilia worked to reduce barriers to licensure for military service members and their spouses, applicants with criminal convictions, and immigrants.
Cecilia also worked to reduce the backlog of investigations, specifically decreasing the pharmacy investigator caseload by 30% and decreasing the number of medical investigations by almost 88%. Cecilia’s other responsibilities included hearing and deciding on petitions for summary suspensions that would temporarily suspend a licensee’s professional license and for deciding on final orders and consent orders.
Outreach and Education to the Public
As a public servant, Cecilia has engaged in various outreach endeavors to provide information to consumers and other stakeholders regarding scams and other information:
- Presented at the 2020 & 2019 POSIBLE Expo hosted by Univision Chicago on professional licensing in Illinois
- Cecilia routinely appeared on Spanish-language media providing information to consumers regarding purchasing a used car, financial products, and immigration services provider fraud
- In 2016, Cecilia was among 80 Latinx leaders from the Midwest to participate in the American Bar Foundation's (ABF) Inaugural Regional Roundtable. This ABF research initiative was part of the The Future of Latinos in the United States: Law, Opportunity, and Mobility." Cecilia's focus was on scams by immigration services providers and financial scams.