WBEZ | immigration overhaul http://www.wbez.org/tags/immigration-overhaul Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago march, rally to target immigration changes http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-march-rally-target-immigration-changes-106927 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/immig.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>About a thousand people marched through Chicago&#39;s streets and attended a rally Wednesday in what has become an annual cry for changing the nation&#39;s immigration laws.</p><p>Demonstrators demanded an overhaul of immigration laws in an annual, nationwide ritual that carried a special sense of urgency as Congress considers sweeping legislation that would bring many of the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally out of the shadows.</p><p>Chicago&#39;s marchers gathered at a near West Side park before marching to a rally at Federal Plaza downtown featuring Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin.</p><p>About 2,000 activists marched in Chicago last year &mdash; far fewer than the half a million people who converged on the city in 2006 to demand immigration reform.</p><p>Thousands joined May Day rallies in cities from Tampa, Fla., to Bozeman, Mont., with participants braving the cold and snow to deliver their message in some places.</p><p>In Salem, Ore., Gov. John Kitzhaber was cheered by about 2,000 people on the Capitol steps as he signed a bill to allow people living in Oregon without proof of legal status to obtain drivers licenses.</p><p>More than 1,000 people assembled on the Montpelier, Vt., Statehouse lawn. In New York, paper rats on sticks bobbed along Sixth Avenue as about 200 protesters set off from Bryant Park, chanting: &quot;What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!&quot; The rats were intended to symbolize abused migrant workers.</p><p>Many rallies featured speakers with a personal stake in the debate. In Concord, N.H., Kristela Hernandez, 21, said she feared separating from her U.S.-born children if her work visa expires.</p><p>&quot;I came here for better opportunities for me and now my children,&quot; Hernandez told about 100 people outside the Statehouse. &quot;I&#39;m here to work and to get an education.&quot;</p><p>Naykary Silva, a 26-year-old Mexican woman in the country illegally, joined about 200 people who marched in Denver&#39;s spring snow, hoping for legislation that would ensure medical care for her 3-year-old autistic son.</p><p>&quot;If you want to do something, you do it no matter what,&quot; Silva said. &quot;There&#39;s still more work to do.&quot;</p><p>The crowds did not approach the massive demonstrations of 2006 and 2007, during the last serious attempt to introduce major changes to the U.S. immigration system. Despite the large turnouts six years ago, many advocates of looser immigration laws felt they were outmaneuvered by opponents who flooded congressional offices with phone calls and faxes at the behest of conservative talk-radio hosts.</p><p>Now, immigrant advocacy groups are focusing heavily on calling and writing members of Congress, using social media and other technology to target specific lawmakers. Reform Immigration for America, a network of groups, claims more than 1.2 million subscribers, including recipients of text messages and Facebook followers.</p><p>Gabriel Villalobos, a Spanish-language talk radio host in Phoenix, said many of his callers believe it is the wrong time for marches, fearful that that any unrest could sour public opinion on immigration reform. Those callers advocate instead for a low-key approach of calling members of Congress.</p><p>&quot;The mood is much calmer,&quot; said Villalobos, who thinks the marches are still an important show of political force.</p><p>May Day rallies began in the United States in 2000 during a labor dispute with a restaurant in Los Angeles that drew several hundred demonstrators, said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, which organized what was expected to be Wednesday&#39;s largest rally. Crowds grew each year until the House of Representatives passed a tough bill against illegal immigration, sparking a wave of enormous, angry protests from coast to coast in 2006.</p><p>The rallies, which coincide with Labor Day in many countries outside the U.S., often have big showings from labor leaders and elected officials.</p><p>Demonstrators marched in countries around the world, with fury in Europe over austerity measures and rage in Asia over relentlessly low pay, the rising cost of living and hideous working conditions that have left hundreds dead in recent months alone.</p><p>The New York crowd was a varied bunch of labor groups, immigrant activists and demonstrators unaffiliated with any specific cause. Among them was 26-year-old Becky Wartell, who was carrying a tall puppet of the Statue of Liberty.</p><p>&quot;Every May Day, more groups that have historically considered themselves separate from one another come together,&quot; she said.</p></p> Wed, 01 May 2013 12:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-march-rally-target-immigration-changes-106927 Gay rights groups: Don’t leave us out of immigration bills http://www.wbez.org/news/gay-rights-groups-don%E2%80%99t-leave-us-out-immigration-bills-106813 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Gay Immigration_130424_abk.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Some gay rights groups in Illinois are now applying their own political pressure in the fight to overhaul the nation&rsquo;s immigration system, as they worry a final deal could leave same-sex couples in the lurch.</p><p dir="ltr">The political difficulty of recognizing same-sex couples in U.S. immigration law was <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/gutierrez-ryan-push-immigration-overhaul-chicago-106786">on display Monday</a>, when U.S. Reps. Luis Gutierrez, a liberal Chicago Democrat, and Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican and former GOP vice presidential nominee, made stops in Chicago to plug their ideas for an immigration overhaul in the House.</p><p dir="ltr">Bipartisanship and compromise were the buzzwords of the day, until someone in the audience at a downtown luncheon asked whether Gutierrez thought the immigration changes would recognize same-sex relationships.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;And I will fight for it, but I do not believe it will be in a bill,&rdquo; Gutierrez said, adding that he supported the idea, but was concerned about its ability to gain support in Congress.</p><p dir="ltr">After a long pause, Ryan, who opposes same-sex marriage, chimed in.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;So I&rsquo;m gonna stick with just the immigration stuff here,&rdquo; he said, giving a nervous laugh.</p><p dir="ltr">The exchange illustrates the political challenge of including so-called bi-national same-sex couples in an immigration overhaul, particularly in the GOP-led House of Representatives, where cobbling together bipartisan support for an immigration bill is already a tall order, even without tossing in the hot-button issue of gay rights.</p><p dir="ltr">But some activists in Chicago say recognition for same-sex couples must be included. They were surprised that Gutierrez seemed to declare the idea dead on arrival, even before a House bill has been introduced.</p><p dir="ltr">Recognition in U.S. immigration law would mean a same-sex relationship could be grounds to grant legal status to a foreign spouse, or to prevent their deportation. It could also help gay foreign couples who are working in the U.S. on visas.</p><p dir="ltr">Those laws currently apply only to heterosexual couples because federal law defines marriage as being between one man and one woman, though the U.S. Supreme Court is now reviewing the issue.</p><p dir="ltr">That provision could have a big impact on the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender immigrants who are now in the U.S. illegally &ndash; about 267,000 people, according to an <a href="http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/research/census-lgbt-demographics-studies/us-lgbt-immigrants-mar-2013/">estimate</a> from the Williams Institute, a think tank that researches LGBT legal issues.</p><p dir="ltr">Gutierrez&rsquo;s political calculus doesn&rsquo;t sit well Julio Rodriguez. He chairs the LGBTQ Immigration Rights Coalition of Chicago, which advocates for gay rights in immigration law.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You can&rsquo;t pick and choose when you wanna be our allies,&rdquo; Rodriguez said, adding that full recognition for same-sex couples is the right thing to do, regardless of political difficulties.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We helped elect many of those folks who are sitting in Congress that are our allies,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve provided financial resources, we&rsquo;ve provided people on the ground, and we expect a return on that investment.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Recognition for same-sex couples is not included in the sweeping immigration overhaul bill introduced in the Democrat-controlled Senate last week, though gay rights activists say they&rsquo;re lobbying Illinois&rsquo; Senators to have it included via a later amendment.</p><p dir="ltr">But Gutierrez&rsquo;s suggestion that it may not be included in a House version came as news to some of his allies in Chicago&rsquo;s gay rights community.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;That is very surprising to me,&rdquo; said Jane Merrill, with the Center on Halsted, an LGBTQ community center on Chicago&rsquo;s North Side. &ldquo;Though the bi-national same-sex couple provision was on in there, there was a lot of positive feeling that it would be.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Passing immigration reform and recognizing same-sex couples in immigration law shouldn&#39;t be mutually exclusive, Merrill said.</p><p dir="ltr">But Randy Hannig, Director of Public Policy at Equality Illinois, suggested his group&rsquo;s lobbying efforts will remain focused on the Senate for the time being.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We realize just how hard a lot of our issues [will] be to make it through both chambers before we make it to the president&rsquo;s desk,&rdquo; Hannig said. &ldquo;I guess for lack of a better term, we&rsquo;re definitely keeping it real.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Gutierrez, for his part, said in an interview with WBEZ on Tuesday he wants to include same-sex couples in an immigration overhaul. He pointed to his longtime support of gay rights, though in the past, he&rsquo;s gone <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/news/politics/immigration-bill-leaves-same-sex-families-out">back</a>&nbsp;on <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/news/immigration/guti%C3%A3%C2%A9rrez-sees-immigrants-gays-uniting">forth</a>&nbsp;on how hard to push for them when it comes to his trademark issue of immigration reform.</p><p dir="ltr">Now, as one of the key Democrats working to navigate a massive immigration overhaul through the GOP-led House, Guiterrez said he&rsquo;s simply being realistic when he tells his allies in the gay rights movement that the votes aren&rsquo;t there.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You shouldn&rsquo;t pander,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;You shouldn&rsquo;t raise false expectations. That&rsquo;s not what I expect from a friend and an ally.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Gutierrez said he hopes to introduce the House immigration overhaul bill he&rsquo;s drafting with Rep. Ryan in a few weeks. But the whole question could be moot by the end of June, when the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the federal definition of marriage.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Alex Keefe is a political reporter for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/akeefe">@akeefe</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 24 Apr 2013 10:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/gay-rights-groups-don%E2%80%99t-leave-us-out-immigration-bills-106813