ALMA Endorses Uniting American Families Act (UAFA)

The Association of Latino Men for Action (ALMA) is adding our name to the list of official endorsements of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). This is a legislation that would allow a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to sponsor their same-sex partner for immigration purposes to the U.S., a right which heterosexual couples have. The bill currently has 130 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, and 23 in the Senate.

See Bill Summary from Immigration Equality
See Bill Text, 2011-2012

At ALMA we believe that this is a crucial step towards recognizing equal rights of same sex couples by the federal government. At the same time our organization understands that the passage of this legislation would not solve the problems facing the millions of undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. or in immigration detention, including those who are part of the LGBT community. Nevertheless, the legislation would open opportunities that currently do not exist for same-sex couples in a significant way, including those who have partners that are undocumented. Two examples of the potential impact of this legislation are:

  • A person with a federally recognized spouse of a U.S. citizen will go through the process of naturalization, by about 2 years, due to their relationship. Currently that only includes heterosexual couples.
  • If same-sex couples were to be recognized, there is a chance that undocumented members of U.S. citizens might be able to qualify for a green card without leaving the country, under a recently announced policy change by the Obama administration. Currently, only federally recognized spouses would qualify.

As we continue to support legislation that opens up conditional opportunities for LGBT immigrants, ALMA pledges to continue to fight towards comprehensive immigration reform that opens a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the United States.

Immigration, faith and the LGBT community

This article, originally entitled “Rabbi: LGBTQ and immigration reform are allies” was written by Northwestern University student journalist Zen Vuong. It is based on an event on November 18, 2011, organized by Congregation Or Chadash and the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, member organizations of the LGBTQ Immigrant Rights Coalition. 

Nineteen Jewish people discussed Friday how current immigration laws hurt lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer partnerships between people from different countries.

A member of Congregation Or Chadash, a synagogue in Edgewater, talked about his failed marriage with a German man.

“The contortions that we had to go through to legally keep him in status were exhausting and part of the reason why the marriage failed,” he said.

Though a U.S. citizen could help a spouse become naturalized, federal law only recognizes marriage between men and women. So Illinois’ civil unions cannot prevent deportation of foreign partners.

“Words are not repeated a lot in the Torah, but there are a lot of commands that we treat a stranger with respect,” said Emily Zucker-Burns, community organizer at the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs. “The Torah tells us to love a stranger 36 times. Just the emphasis that it has speaks to the Jewish story of immigration and how many migrations our families have made.”

Her relationship with an Ecuadorian woman ended because Zucker-Burns could not bring her partner to Central America, let alone the U.S, she said.

According to the Census, approximately 36,000 same-sex binational couples—including 1,800 in Illinois—lived in the United States in 2000. Additionally the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found 490,000 undocumented immigrants living in Illinois in 2010.

Both the LGBTQ community and undocumented immigrants feel like outsiders in their own community, said Zucker-Burns. “Feeling like you don’t necessarily want to volunteer information, feeling like you have to hide your status in certain situations.”

Undocumented advocacy coordinator Tania Unzueta planned to speak at the information session but had to help her undocumented father out of an Alabama jail. Police imprisoned him and 12 others for demonstrating against HB 56, state law requiring public school students to reveal their status and allowing police to racially profile anyone they suspect to be illegal.

“I am LGBT, and I’m undocumented, so I feel like how could I work for only one part of myself or one part of my community?” Unzueta said.

Although some conservative advocates balk at working with the LGBTQ community, Rabbi Larry Edwards said, others might think the group “is better organized or has more clout” because “don’t ask, don’t tell” passed on Dec. 18, 2010, but the Dream Act failed in a Senate vote on the same day. This legislation would have legalized immigrants who arrived as children and went through the U.S. education system—people like Unzueta, who is now a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Identifying herself as queer or “non-hetero normative,” Unzueta said a united front is the best solution.

“If we start understanding that undocumented immigrants are also people—that we dream, that we want, that we love, that we work—then maybe people would start understanding why we want those rights, just like the LGBT community does.”

In August 2011, the Obama administration said it would exercise prosecutorial discretion or decide on a case-by-case basis about 300,000 deportation cases. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement memo did not specify gay and lesbian couples but included a person’s “ties and contributions to the community, including family relationships.”

Quigley Brings Local Testimony on Same-Sex Marriage to Congress

WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, December 7, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), citing testimony received from prominent speakers and community organizations during a field hearing held in Chicago. Rep. Quigley’s speech was as follows:

 

“Mister Speaker, in 1996 Congress passed the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. It was then, and still is today, an affront to our country’s values. Values we hold true, as established in the Declaration of Independence – of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and of equality and fairness for all.

 

“On October 7, 2011, I held a field forum in Chicago to hear from legal experts and gay and lesbian couples about the real-world harm caused by DOMA. The findings were startling. I heard from parents afraid to take their children across state lines. I heard about children afraid that the “government” will take them away from their parents. I heard from a high-tech entrepreneur who might take his business and jobs to Brazil because he can’t sponsor his partner. And, I heard from couples that can’t count on Social Security, even though they’re legally married and have paid their fair share of taxes.

 

“I ask that the Clerk enter all of their testimony into the record, to formally document this collection of unfairness and inequity, burdens that are imposed on normal Americans just trying to live a normal life.

 

“It is incomprehensible that today we are still dealing with such injustice. Congress created this injustice and Congress should correct it.

 

“Let the record reflect these sentiments.”

 

In total 17 testimonials were received on behalf of numerous same-sex couples affected by DOMA, as well as national legal experts and public officials. Organizations that submitted testimony included CBA LGBT Committee, Equality Illinois, Heartland Alliance/National Immigrant Justice Center, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Lambda Legal, and the LGBT Immigration Coalition.

 

The full record of testimony can be found here on Rep. Quigley’s website here.

 

Dear ALMA Supporters and Friends,

As the Association of Latino Men for Action (ALMA) begins its 23rd year of serve to the Latino LGBTQ community on January 1, 2012, we continue build off a very rich and remarkable history. Whether taking the role as the lead gay organization helping to build a coalition among LGBTQ groups and others on comprehensive immigration reform or helping community based gay or Latino agencies to develop organizational policies that help increase access to healthcare services to the Latino gay, bisexual and question men and who also may be undocumented as well as being a key player in helping to insure that the new Mayor of Chicago supports the rights of all it’s residents, we have and continue to be a recognized leader on Latino LGBTQ issues.

Another area we hope to continue to lead on is education, through our ALMA Scholarship program. The scholarship program has been a great source of pride for both participants and supporters of ALMA. Each year, ALMA awards scholarships to two young Latino gay or bisexual men for their leadership on LGBTQ issues in their community and to help them meet their educational goals. The young Latino gay or bisexual men that have received these scholarships have been remarkable individuals and we are honor to have recognized them for their achievements. In the years to come, we also hope to help to influenced the newly created “Illinois Dream Act Fund” which will provide financial support to young Latino undocumented students to continue their education beyond high school. Through our work with the LGBT Immigration Coalition, we want to play a leadership role around how these funds can be made available to Latino LGBTQ youth.

Also this year, ALMA was award anther health coalition building grant by the Chicago Community Trust, to expand and continue our health advocacy work with both gay and Latino organizations to increase access to the services for the Latino LGBTQ community including those who may be undocumented. Our “Strength in Unity” coalition has really helped us see the opportunities and challenges that both communities face and our partner organizations have worked with us to begin to develop new strategies for meeting the needs of the whole Latino LGBTQ community.

Finally, as ALMA moves forward, the hope is to continue our work helping to provide advocacy, leadership, support and visibility to the needs of gay, bisexual and questioning Latino men as well as issues effecting the broader LGBTQ and Latino communities.

As the President of ALMA and on behalf of my fellow Board members we want to thank you for your support and hope that we can count on you again.

We hope you will consider making a donation or contribution to our work this year by sending a check or going online to www.almachicago.org.

Sincerely,

Julio Rodriguez
President of ALMA

Undocumented Immigrants Part of LGBT Community Assesment

The Association of Latino Men for Action (ALMA) and Amigas Latinas are co-hosting a focus group specifically for undocumented gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) immigrants in Chicago. This is taking part as part of the LGBT Community Needs Assessment, a project of the Chicago Community Trust’s LGBT Community Fund. The information collected will help foundations and other institutions to better understand the needs of our communities, including those of undocumented immigrants.

La Association of Latino Men for Action (ALMA) y Amigas Latinas esta co-organizando un grupo de foco para personas indocumentadas parte del colectivo gay, lesbico, bisexual, transgenero, y sexo-genero diverso (LGBTQ) en Chicago. Este grupo es parte de la Evaluación de las Necesidades de la comunidad LGBT, un proyecto dirigido por la el Fondo Comunitario LGBT, a iniciativa del Chicago Community Trust. Los resultados de la investigación seran usados por fundaciones y otras instituciones para tener una mejor idea de las necesidades diversas de nuestras comunidades, y la participación de inmigrantes indocumentedos LGBT es indispensable.

Date/ Fecha: December 9th, 2011/ 9 de diciembre, 2011
Time/Hora: 6:00-7:30 PM

To register and find out the location, please e-mail Tania, or call 773.661.0926 be-
fore December 1, 2011. Food will be provided.

Para registrarse y saber la dirección, por favor mande un correo electrónico a Tania o llame al 773.661.0926 antes del 1ro de Diciembre, 2011. Habran aperitivos.

Anuncio PDF sobre Grupo de Enfoque
PDF Flyer on Focus Group 

LGBTQ Organizations Call for End of Secure Communities Program

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Organizations Call for the Immediate Elimination of ICE’s “Secure Communities” Program. The Association of Latino Men for Action is one of the endorsing organizations. The text below is re-posted from the Coalition United Against Violence website, where you can also find an updated list of the signing organizations and information on how to endorse the event.

On August 5, 2011, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton informed governors that ICE would terminate all agreements with states to implement its controversial fingerprint-sharing “Secure Communities” (S-Comm) program, despite previously saying that states and counties could opt-out or modify that agreement. This announcement came as a result of powerful community mobilization throughout the country to challenge S-Comm and expose the harmful consequences of police/ICE collaboration.

LGBTQ immigrants–particularly LGBTQ youth of color, low-income LGBTQ people, and LGBTQ survivors of violence–are disproportionately impacted by S-Comm and all “ICE ACCESS” programs, a set of thirteen federal programs that create partnership between federal law enforcement and local, state, and tribal police and courts.

Because of widespread police profiling, selective enforcement, and poverty, LGBTQ immigrants come into high rates of contact with law enforcement, leading to a greater risk for deportation, now made even greater by programs such as S-Comm. Unfortunately, these programs are only the first steps in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) biometric-sharing “Next Generation Identification” (NGI), a massive searchable database of palm print, fingerprint, and iris scans as well as scar, mark, tattoo, and facial recognition that will be accessible across federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security.

As LGBTQ leaders, activists, and community members, we call on President Obama to take decisive action to eliminate these destructive programs that target and have severe consequences for LGBTQ people, low-income people, immigrants, people of color, survivors of violence, and young people.

How S-Comm Harms LGBTQ Communities:

  • Police/ICE collaboration further endangers LGBTQ communities and all communities with less access to resources. All immigrants in this country struggle to find safe and secure housing, healthcare, employment, and education while living in fear of deportation. Immigrants who are LGBTQ are particularly vulnerable to detention and deportation because they are more likely to come into contact with law enforcement through police profiling and discriminatory enforcement of minor offenses, as well as through false or dual arrest when they attempt to survive or flee violence. Officials often use excessive force and coercion against LGBTQ people at the scene of arrest, including threats of deportation. Once in jail, prison, or immigration detention, LGBTQ people experience rampant and sometimes fatal sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, mirroring the abuse many face from partners, employers, and neighbors outside.
  • Police/ICE collaboration programs scapegoat LGBTQ immigrant communities and all marginalized groups of people by labeling them as “criminals.” LGBTQ communities like all marginalized communities face higher rates of poverty, violence, and unemployment. By labeling these communities “criminals,” S-Comm and other similar programs undermine the ability of communities and policymakers to create long-term solutions to these critical issues.
  • Deporting and increasing surveillance of people does not create safety. Removing people from their homes and communities breaks apart biological and chosen family, drains resources, and creates a culture of fear. In addition to anticipating anti-LGBTQ bias, the fear of being referred to ICE can discourage LGBTQ immigrants from accessing supportive services. Many LGBTQ people face strained relationships with their biological families, and depend on others in their community for support. S-Comm and other similar programs tear at the fabric of these life-saving networks. True safety comes from whole, fully-resourced communities where everyone has the support they need to thrive.
  • Complex problems require complex solutions. Programs like S-Comm distort and exacerbate the real problems communities face. For example, LGBTQ people often immigrate to the U.S. because of persecution and discrimination in their countries of origin. Upon finding similar discrimination in this country, LGBTQ people often turn to criminalized and underground economies to survive or are profiled or subjected to selective enforcement for minor offenses based on their sexual or gender non-conformity, leading to criminal charges and a greater risk of deportation under S-Comm and other similar programs. Instead of punishing people for their survival, we would be wise to address the underlying lack of economic and educational opportunity, destructive economic policies, and intergenerational legacies of trauma and bias that truly jeopardize our communities.

For these reasons and more, we invite LGBTQ leaders, organizations, and elected officials to join in this critical opportunity to defend the dignity and well-being of our most vulnerable community members and urge President Obama to immediately eliminate S-Comm and all police/ICE collaboration. Click here to endorse this statement.

Please see the 2010 National Report on Anti-LGBT Hate Violence for stories and statistics documenting LGBTQ interactions with law enforcement. If you or someone you know would like to share your experience being impacted by S-Comm or challenging the program, please contactmorgan@cuav.org or (415) 777-5500 x318.

GROWING LIST OF ENDORSERS:

3rd Space, Phoenix, AZ
AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Ali Forney Center, New York, NY
An American Rainbow Foundation, Boulder, Co
API Equality – Northern California, San Francisco, CA
Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence, San Francisco, CA
Association of Latino Men for Action, Chicago, IL
Astraea Lesbians Foundation for Justice, New York, NY
Audre Lorde Project, New York, NY
Beloit College DREAMers, Beoit, WI
Best Practices Policy Project, Washington, DC
Black and Pink, National Office in Boston, MA
Black and Proud, Baton Rouge, LA
BreakOUT!, New Orleans, LA
Brown Boi Project, Oakland, CA
Capital City Alliance, Baton Rouge, LA
Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), New York, NY
COLAGE, National Office in San Francisco, CA
Colorado Anti-Violence Program (CAVP), Denver, CO
Corcoran College of Art and Design, Washington, DC
Community United Against Violence (CUAV), San Francisco, CA
Desiree Alliance, National
Different Avenues, Washington D.C.
El/La Program Para TransLatinas, San Francisco, CA
Equality Louisiana, Baton Rouge, LA
FIERCE, New York City, NY
Gay Asian Pacific Islander Men of New York (GAPIMNY), New York, NY
Gay-Straight Alliance Network, San Francisco, CA
Gendercast, Seattle, WA
GetEQUAL, National
Gender JUST, Chicago, IL
GRIOT Circle Inc., Brooklyn, NY
Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, San Francisco, CA
HAVOQ/San Francisco Pride at Work, San Francisco, CA
Latino Commission on AIDS, New York, NY
Lavender Youth Recreation & Information Center (LYRIC), San Francisco, CA
The LGBTQ Project of the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA
Louisiana Trans Advocates, Baton Rouge, LA
Make the Road New York, New York City & Suffolk County
Mangos With Chili, Oakland, CA
Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC), Boston, MA
National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), National Office in San Francisco, CA
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), National Office in New York, NY
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, National Office in Washington D.C.
The Network/La Red, Boston, MA
One Colorado, Colorado State
Our Family Coalition, San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Our4Immigration, National Based in San Francisco, CA
OUTlaw of Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA
Out Now, Springfield, MA
Peter Cicchino Youth Project, New York, NY
Positive Force, Washington, DC
Queer Asian Women & Transgender Support Program of Asian Women’s Shelter, San Francisco, CA
Queer Latina Network, Santa Cruz, CA
Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project (QWOCMAP), San Francisco, CA
Queers for Economic Justice, New York, NY
Rev. Dr. Michael Tino, Mount Kisco, NY
Rev. Lynn Gardner, Auburn, CA
San Francisco Trans March, San Francisco, CA
Sex Workers Action New York (SWANK), New York, NY
Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Denver, Denver, CO
Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) NYC, New York, NY
Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center, New York, NY
Southerners On New Ground (SONG), Southern Regional
Spectrum LGBT Center, Marin County, CA
Streetwise & Safe (SAS), New York, NY
Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP), New York, NY
Thrive Social Justice, Oakland, CA
Transformative Alliances LLC, Denver, CO
Transgender, Gender Variant, & Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), San Francisco, CA
Transgender Individuals Living Their Truth, Inc. (TILTT), Atlanta, GA
Transgender Law Center (TLC), Statewide Office in San Francisco, CA
Trikone Northwest, Seattle, WA
Trinity Place Shelter, New York, NY
Women Organized to Make Abuse Nonexistent (WOMAN Inc.), San Francisco, CA
Women Organizing Women of Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA
Women With a Vision, Inc., New Orleans, LA
Women’s Health and Justice Initiative, New Orleans, LA

Chicago Legislators Hold Hearing on Same-Sex Marriage

At this hearing the LGBTQ Immigrant Rights Coalition provided a testimony explaining the relationship between the repeal of DOMA and the rights of immigrant communities (Read it here). Bellow is the press release from the office of Congressman Quigley.

CHICAGO – Today, U.S. Representatives Mike Quigley (IL-05), Luis V. Gutierrez (IL-04), and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) held a congressional field forum to investigate the impact of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), specifically the denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples and their families in Illinois and around the country, and to review DOMA’s constitutionality and current court cases. The forum was hosted by Rep. Quigley in the Chicago City Council chambers, where the Members of Congress heard testimony from numerous same-sex couples affected by DOMA, as well as national legal expert Camilla Taylor of Lambda Legal, Gail H. Morse, a tax attorney and partner at Jenner & Block, LLP in Chicago, and Alderman James Cappleman of Chicago’s 46th Ward.

“It is incumbent upon us to put an unconstitutional law under the congressional microscope. Indiana officials, using the offensively-named Defense of Marriage Act, told a young grieving widow that the civil union recognized here in Illinois wasn’t valid a few miles away in Indiana, and so she has no right to seek damages or peace,” said Rep. Quigley, referring to this summer’s tragic Indiana State Fair stage collapse which killed Chicago LGBT advocate Christina Santiago, among six others. “Dr. Martin Luther King said that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ Let us hope that whilethis Congress may not strike down this discriminatory policy, the courts can still protect our civil rights. Our country’s foundation of justice and equality depends on it.”

“The main thing marriage needs defense from is an out-dated definition of marriage in American society,” said Rep. Gutierrez. “We need laws that reflect the many varieties and shades and circumstances of the American family as it really exists and not as some narrow or archaic definition constrains it. I have worked throughout my career for more inclusive policies, since before I was even a Congressman, so I see the Respect for Marriage Act as an important part of my work on civil and human rights issues in Washington.”

“It is essential that the United States of America provide full and equal marriage rights to all. The Defense of Marriage Act is a blatantly discriminatory law which must be overturned, either through Congressional repeal or a finding in the courts,” said Rep. Schakowsky said. “Equal treatment is a fundamental aspect of our democracy, and LGBT rights count too. Polls over the last few years have shown that the public largely agrees. The tide of public opinion is now in our favor, but the fight continues. We must keep pushing and lobbying Congress to end discrimination.”

“The old saying that nothing is certain except death and taxes, is wrong when applied to same sex couples. The social security benefits accorded to the survivor of a same sex union and the tax treatment of same sex couples are among the 1,000 or so federal laws that operate within the definition of marriage that are often referenced as off limits to same sex couples,” said Gail H. Morse of Jenner & Block, LLP. “DOMA allows for the discriminatory treatment of same sex couples at the federal level with respect to both death and taxes making application of either to same sex couples anything but certain. This uncertainty is made greater when a state cites DOMA as a limitation on the way it can interact with its own residents.”

“The so-called Defense of Marriage Act not only deprives legally married same-sex couples and their children of hundreds of vital protections,” said Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal, “it brands these families as less deserving than other families, and invites discrimination by businesses, employers, in health care settings, and in schools.”

Couples testifying before the panel include Angelica Lopez and Claudia Mercado and Janean Watkins and Lakeesha Harris, both in Illinois civil unions; Trish and Kate Varnum, who were the named plaintiffs in the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court decision (Varnum v. Brien) that legalized same-sex marriage in the State of Iowa; and Grant Gochnauer and Gabriel Fontes de Faria, a bi-national couple from Chicago. Written testimony was also provided by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Equality Illinois, Heartland Alliance/National Immigrant Justice Center, CBA LGBT Committee, and theLGBT Immigration Coalition. Also in attendance were State Representative Greg Harris, State Representative Kelly Cassidy, Alderman Tom Tunney, Commissioner Debra Shore, Illinois Department of Human Rights Director Rocco Claps and City of Chicago Commissioner on Human Relations Mona Noriega.

Congressman Quigley is a member of the House Judiciary Committee where he serves on the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security and the Subcommittee on the Constitution. He is also a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Congressman Quigley is an original co-sponsor of H.R. 1116, Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA.

Congressman Gutierrez, a Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Financial Services Committee, is in his 10th term in Congress. He is the Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ Task Force on Immigration and a co-sponsor of H.R. 1116, the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA.

Congresswoman Schakowsky currently serves on the Energy & Commerce Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. She is a vice-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, and is currently in her 7th term in Congress. Congresswoman Schakowsky is an original cosponsor of H.R. 1116, the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA.

Gail H. Morse is a tax partner and chair of the State and Local Tax Practice at Jenner & Block, LLP a national law firm headquartered in Chicago.

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.