LGBTQ Immigrant Rights Coalition holds workshop

The LGBTQ Immigration Rights Coalition hosted an advocacy seminar June 29 at Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

The workshop focused on educating social workers, lawyers and other service providers about immigration issues for LGBT people.

“We want to arm people with information,” said Keren Zwick, supervising attorney of the LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative at the National Immigrant Justice Center.

Lawyers working with undocumented people going through immigration proceedings explained the various routes for staying in the United States legally and the problems within the current system.

Most of the U.S. immigration system is family-based, and undocumented people can be sponsored for citizenship by spouses. Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, LGBT families are often excluded from these immigration benefits.

Undocumented LGBT people may also seek asylum in the United States because homosexuality is criminalized in their country of origin.

“Asylum is a true lifesaver for people persecuted for being LGBT in their country or who could be killed for being LGBT,” said Mike Jarecki, an attorney affiliated with the LGBT Working Group of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Asylum is available to a refugee, someone who does not want to return to a country because of fear of persecution by the government on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. In 1994, sexual orientation was added to the list of protected social groups.

“In LGBT [asylum] cases, there’s often desensitization to the abuse experienced by LGBT people,” said Jarecki.

Undocumented LGBT people also shared their experiences at the workshop.

“We’re illegal in our own country. There is no word for what we are,” said an undocumented transgender woman from Mexico who wished not to be named. “Socially, it is very hard to live.”

Shortly before coming to the United States, two of her transgender friends were murdered. Mexico also has limited access to transition services, saying that most people use dangerous underground methods to medically transition.

Members of Immigrant Youth Justice League shared their experiences as activists working on immigration reform. They touted the importance of personal stories to help change immigration policies like U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Secure Communities, a program that checks detained people’s biometric information (fingerprints) against Department of Homeland Security databases.

Organizers of the workshop were enthusiastic about the turnout for the event and encouraged attendees to further educate themselves on LGBT immigration issues.

“There is a room full of people who care about this issue, and a room full of people who care about this issue in relation to LGBT people. We need to make sure we are as educated as we can be,” said Julio Rodriguez, president of the Association of the Latino Men for Action and chair of the LGBTQ Immigrant Rights Coalition.

Workshop for Advocates Working with Undocumented LGBTQ Immigrants

The LGBTQ Immigrant Rights Coalition invites you to a free workshop on the issues currently facing gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer immigrants in the United States. It is designed with legal professionals, social workers, community organizers, and service providers in mind, but it is open to the public.

The workshop will address:

  1. What are the rights of undocumented LGBTQ immigrants?
  2. Are there forms of relief for undocumented LGBTQ immigrants?
  3. What are the policies and laws that advocates should be aware of when working with undocumented LGBTQ immigrants?
  4. What are current actions and campaigns taking place to support the rights of LGBTQ immigrants?

CLE and CEU credits will be available for those who are interested. These credits are free of charge.
Friday June 29, 2012, 1:00-4:00 PM with a cocktail hour to follow. It will take place at the Loyola University School of Law, Water Tower Campus, 25 E. Pearson, 10th floor Ceremonial Courtroom (Near the Chicago Avenue CTA Red Line station).


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


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