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Aldermen Propose Adding Immigration Status And Gender Identity To City's Hate Crime Protections

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Two aldermen are proposing a measure to expand the city's hate crime ordinance to add protections for people based on their gender identity or their citizenship and immigration status.

Ald. Edward Burke (14th) and Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) introduced the measure to the City Council on Monday. It would add two new protected classes to the city's hate crimes ordinance, which already provides protections based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, ancestry, sexual orientation, active or prior military status, or mental or physical disability.

If approved by the City Council, the measure would add protections for people based on their immigration or citizenship status, and based on their gender identity.

"Chicago will always be a sanctuary city and safe for people of every background" Burke said in a statement.

The aldermen said the proposal is a response to a nationwide spike in hate crimes.

"Every resident must feel safe, regardless of their documentation status" Lopez said in a statement "It's also time that we take real steps to protect the transgender community. Outrage on Twitter is not enough."

The city's hate crime ordinance makes it a crime punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine to commit an act of simple assault, property damage, trespassing, vandalism, phone harassment, or disturbing a house of worship against anyone based on them being a member of one of the protected groups. Any crime punishable by more than six months under state or federal law would not be prosecuted under the city's hate crime ordinance, but instead under the stiffer state or federal penalties.

The aldermen said other major cities like New York and Los Angeles already offer those protections to residents based on gender identity and immigration or citizenship status.

Burke has largely avoided the spotlight since federal prosecutors hit him with extortion charges, though he has still regularly attended City Council meetings, and was re-elected to a record 13th term despite the charges.

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