Video recording of the Coalition’s first Immigrant Rights Forum. The event featured Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Congressman Mike Quigley, and the Commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Human Relations, Mona Noriega, as moderator of the panel. Also presenting were Keren Zwick, from the National Immigrant Justice Center; Fred Tsao, from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; Reyna Wences, from the Immigrant Youth Justice League; and Tania Unzueta, from the Association of Latino Men for Action.
Congressman Luis Gutierrez represents the 4th congressional district of Illinois since 1993. He is a Chicago native, who graduated from Northeastern Illinois University in 1977. He has worked as a teacher, social worker, cab driver, community activist, and city official until his election in 1986 as Alderman. In the Chicago City Council, he led the fight for affordable housing, tougher ethics rules, and a law to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. Congressman Gutierrez is a nationally recognized leader on immigrant rights. Last December he was key in advancing legislation such as the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act in the House of Representatives. Over the last two years he has been the only Congressman arrested protesting presidential inaction on immigration reform and a record-breaking one-million deportations under President Obama. Congressman Gutierrez joined the LGBT Immigrant Rights Coalition this year.
Congressman Mike Quigley was elected to Congress to represent Illinois’ 5th District on April 7, 2009. He began his career serving as an aide to former 44th Ward Alderman Bernie Hansen and became a champion for environmental protection, equal rights, and ethical, open government. In Washington, Quigley continues to fight for equal rights, including equality for those in the LGBT community, additional protections for victims of domestic abuse, and a woman’s right to choose. Quigley did his undergraduate work at Roosevelt University, earned a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Chicago, and a law degree from the Loyola University School of Law, all in Chicago. He was a practicing lawyer for almost twenty years. Congressman Quigley has collaborated with the LGBT Immigrant Rights Coalition since early 2010, supporting efforts to make comprehensive reform legislation inclusive of same-sex couples.
Keren Zwick is the supervising attorney for the LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative at the National Immigrant Justice Center. NIJC is a Chicago-based non-profit that provides free or low-cost legal services to immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. Their work includes not only direct services but also policy work, impact litigation, and public education. In her position, Keren represents individuals in immigration proceedings and also works on NIJC’s litigation and policy efforts as they relate to LGBT immigrants. Before joining NIJC, Keren was a clerk on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She is a graduate of Columbia Law School.
Reyna Wences is the co-founder of the Immigrant Youth Justice League, a Chicago-based organization led by undocumented youth working towards full recognition of the rights and contributions of all immigrants. They are known for their slogan “undocumented, unafraid, unapologetic,” the National Coming out of the Shadows, and their use of civil disobedience by undocumented youth in defense of immigrant rights. Wences is a nationally recognized organizer in the undocumented youth movement and a student at the University of Illinois in Chicago. She first “came out of the shadows” on March 1oth, 201o, at the Federal Plaza, and was arrested later that year in Washington D.C. in an action to move the DREAM Act forward. She is the recipient of multiple national and local awards for her organizing and activism on behalf of undocumented youth and the LGBT community.
Fred Tsao is the Policy Director at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. In this position, he provides technical support, trainings, and presentations on immigration-related topics to service providers, immigrant community organizations, and others who work with immigrants. A self-described “recovering attorney,” Fred practiced law at the Rockford office of Prairie State Legal Services, where he worked after receiving his law degree from the University of Michigan. He has also worked with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, the Chicago Anti-Hunger Federation, and the Missouri Public Interest Research Group. A native of Chicago, Fred is the son of immigrants from China, and has had a lifelong concern with immigration issues.
Tania Unzueta is the Advocacy Coordinator for the Association of Latino Men for Action’s LGBTQ Immigrant Rights Project, where an important part of her job is supporting the work of the coalition hosting tonight’s gathering. She is also a graduate student in Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), currently doing research on the implementation of prosecutorial discretion. Tania has also been a long-time advocate of LGBT rights. She has worked as a journalist in local print and radio news focusing on LGBT issues, and was an organizer with the Chicago Dyke March Collective for several years. Tania iz also one of the co-founders of the Immigrant Youth Justice League, and has been key in bringing together LGBT and immigrant rights strategies.
Mona Noriega (host) was appointed as the Commissioner of the Department of Human Relations by the Rahm administration earlier in May of this year. She is a long time LGBT activist, including being the co-founder of Amigas Latinas, an organization committed to empowering lesbian, bisexual and transgender Latinas in Chicago. She was crucial in opening the Lamba Legal Defense and Education Fund’s Midwest Office. Before she was appointed as commissioner, Mona was already an active member of the LGBT Immigrant Rights Coalition.