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Global Gays Initiative Crosses Borders
by Emmanuel Garcia
2008-01-01

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The Global Gays Initiative was unveiled Dec. 13 at a town-hall meeting at Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted, to discuss issues and concerns related to the LGBT immigrant community. The forum, attended by over 50 people of diverse ethnic backgrounds, listened as Amigas Latinas co-founder Evette Cardona introduced a group of panelists who are directly affected, are advocates for immigrants or identify as allies.

The subject of immigration has been at the political forefront for the past three years, yet many contend that relatively little has been written about how current and future immigration law impacts the LGBT community. The Global Gays Initiative is the second effort in Chicago involving the LGBT immigrant population. In the summer of 2006, CLIA ( Chicago LGBT Immigrant Alliance ) was formed out of concern over the proposed Sensenbrenner Bill ( also known as the The Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 ) and the consequential massive marches in protest across the United States.

Jonathan Eoloff, staff attorney for National Immigrant Justice Center's National Asylum Partnership on Sexual Orientation ( NAPSO ) , spoke about asylum and gave a brief overview of eligibility. "In order to apply for asylum a refugee must be present in the U.S. and be able to prove persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of sexual orientation or gender identity," he explained. Under the current definition of the law, members of the transgender community do not fall under the umbrella of "membership in a particular social group," which allows someone who identifies as gay to be eligible for asylum. However, there are special circumstances that may allow a transgender individual to apply.

"Often, a transgender individual encounters identification barriers that reflect gender and chosen names," said panelist Caitlin Daniel-McCarter, an activist. Daniel-McCarter talked about the effect of the No Match Letters ( in which employers may terminate workers whose Social Security numbers do not match those in government records ) on members of the transgender community. An employer may receive such a letter based on gender and decide to fire the person, assuming the employee is undocumented.

Jonathan Livingston shared his personal experience of being in a binational relationship with a man from Brazil. Livingston has decided that, in order to be with the person he loves, he will be forced to leave the United States. They met when his boyfriend was here on a work visa [ H1B Visa ] but was later laid off. Unable to find a job, he was forced to return to Brazil. Livingston is actively trying to create more awareness to pass the Uniting American Families Act, which would allow him to sponsor his same-sex partner. In addition, activists ( and panelists ) Yasmin Nair and Tania Unzueta both urged audience members to become involved.

The initiative is separated into three groups: support and services; legal; and advocacy and activism. At the forum, attendees received a directory of services and resources of organizations that provide legal support for LGBTQ immigrants.

For more information, contact C.C. Carter at cccarter@centeronhalsted.org .


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