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City committee supports inclusive immigration measure
by Sam Worley
2009-12-16

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The Chicago City Council's Committee on Human Relations passed a resolution last week supporting the inclusion of LGBT people in comprehensive immigration-reform legislation.

Specifically, the committee lent its support to the passage of the Uniting American Families Act ( UAFA ) —currently pending in the U.S. Congress—which would allow same-sex partners to sponsor one another for immigration, on par with married heterosexual couples.

The vote was unanimous, and now goes to the full council for approval.

The text of the resolution, which was introduced by Aldermen Tom Tunney ( 44th Ward ) and Daniel Solis ( 25th Ward ) reads, in part, "The limited legal options for same-sex partners to keep their relationships unified exacts an enormous emotional, financial, and mental toll, disproportionate to opposite-sex couples in binational relationships…

"The City of Chicago fully supports the measures of Congress to allow gay and lesbian partners to access immigration benefits in an equal and fair manner, equivalent to opposite sex partners who currently enjoy such legal rights [ . ] "

Testifying in support of the resolution were two immigration lawyers—Eric Berndt and Michael Jarecki—as well as local activists Marselina Gonzalez, from Latinos Progresando, and Ruben Feliciano and Julio Rodriguez, both of the Association of Latino Men for Action ( ALMA ) .

"Our purpose as immigration advocates," said Gonzalez, "is to keep families together. We want loved ones to stay with loved ones, and children to stay with parents."

Jarecki said that same-sex couples seeking to stay together in the United States would be required to demonstrate that theirs is a "good faith relationship," including showing to the appropriate authorities proof of "intermingling of finances," joint leases and insurance, and affirming affidavits from friends and families—"things that normal, everyday people do," said Jarecki.

"The checks will continue to be the same," he said, "whether it is a heterosexual couple or a gay or lesbian couple."

The committee also discussed, and included in the text of the resolution, the notion that forcing people to live illegally in the United States or forcing them to leave the country exacts a toll on the U.S. economy. Tunney said that putting more people to work in the U.S.—and incorporating them into the tax system—could have a "positive economic impact on our community."

Ald. Helen Shiller ( 46th Ward ) , who chairs the committee, echoed Tunney's comments. "It's important to acknowledge that there's a material benefit to eliminating fear" of LGBT people, she said.


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