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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Activists disappointed with immigration bill
by Sam Worley
2009-12-23

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Immigrant rights and LGBT activists have expressed dismay as a major immigration-reform bill introduced into the U.S. Congress by Rep. Luis Gutierrez failed to include key provisions they had sought.

Chief among these was an allowance for LGBT people to sponsor their same-sex partners for immigration—which would, at least in this regard, put gay couples legally on par with heterosexual married couples.

When, earlier this fall, Gutierrez made it clear that he would introduce a progressive immigration-reform bill, groups such as the Association of Latino Men for Action ( ALMA ) hoped to see provisions for same-sex partners included in it. Those provisions are already a part of other legislation pending in Congress, such as the Uniting American Families Act. Congressman Mike Quigley, who represents Illinois' 5th district, said on the House floor in October that no immigration-reform bill could be "comprehensive" without LGBT inclusion.

Local activists met with Gutierrez, whose 4th Congressional district includes sections of Chicago's North and South sides, in October, but weren't able to get a commitment from him then. Though the legislation introduced last week, called the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 ( CIR ASAP ) , was praised by the American Civil Liberties Union ( ACLU ) as being ambitious and comprehensive, it was also criticized, by the ACLU and others, for not going far enough.

Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, said in a statement that her group was "disappointed" not to see the sought-after provisions—but she said Immigration Equality remained hopeful that Gutierrez, a longtime ally of the LGBT community, would support future measures: " [ W ] e have every expectation that he will continue to work on behalf of our families as lawmakers tackle this critically important issue."

"Obviously, we're disappointed," said ALMA President Julio Rodriguez. "This bill doesn't speak to all families."

Rodriguez said that his group would focus on doing more community education around issues important to LGBT immigrants. "We haven't done a good enough job getting the larger LGBT community behind the immigration bill," he said.

Rodriguez also said that he was looking at other lawmakers, such as Quigley, who might introduce the provision as an amendment when the bill comes to the floor of the House. "Our goal is to try to see if we can re-insert the conversation," he said.

In a statement released to Windy City Times, Gutierrez said, "The process I am committed to being a part of in Congress will, I hope, address the unacceptable situation that lesbian and gay bi-national couples live under every day. … Everyone's goal should be a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes a commitment to all families and honors our history as a nation of immigrants. That is my goal, and it is inclusive of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, too."

Gutierrez also noted his support for the Uniting American Families Act, which would let U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor their gay and lesbian partners for immigration to the United States. That measure received a local boost in support last week as the Chicago City Council passed a resolution, introduced by Aldermen Tom Tunney and Daniel Solis, urging its passage in the House of Representatives.


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