HISTORIC VICTORY: Immigration & Customs Enforcement Closes Deportation Proceedings Against Henry Velandia

Josh and Henry have led the fight to stop the deportations of spouses of lesbian and gay American citizens

Read our press release here.

Link to this article here.

(Photo: Jonathan Ystad)

San Francisco Chronicle: Jon and Sergio’s Story

Sergio and Jon were the first binational couple to join Stop The Deportations. Jon filed a green card petition for Sergio in July 2010 and almost 11 months later they were interviewed USCIS in San Francisco

No Green Card For My Spouse
Op-Ed published by the San Francisco Chronicle on June 14, 2011

Today my husband, Sergio, and I will report to the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services to be interviewed for the purpose of determining the legitimacy of our marriage in connection with my petition for his “green card” as my spouse. Unfortunately, despite the historic nature of this interview – the first, to our knowledge, to be conducted for a same-sex couple – it will only be a formality, for we stand no chance of having our case approved.

Once the immigration officer determines that our marital relationship is genuine, our case will be tossed out with a perfunctory denial because our marriage cannot be recognized by the federal government.

The interview occurs 15 years and seven months after we met, moved in together and made a permanent commitment to each other, seven years and four months after our first marriage ceremony was conducted at San Francisco’s City Hall, six years and 10 months after that marriage was invalidated by the California Supreme Court, four years and seven months after we decided to settle temporarily for registering as domestic partners, and two years and nine months after being allowed by the state of California to marry yet again.

Unlike many others preceding us, we experience no trepidation about this interview, for Sergio and I are not merely married, we’re super-married. If we keep going at this rate, we will catch up with Zsa Zsa Gabor, only without all the added fuss of having to repeatedly change partners.

Just one thing impedes my right as an American to sponsor my Brazilian spouse for citizenship, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which essentially forces the federal government to discriminate against all legally married lesbian and gay couples in this country. When DOMA was signed into law in 1996, Sergio and I had settled into our first apartment, opened our first joint bank account and were going about the business of establishing a life together. Though Sergio’s legal status was up in the air, we didn’t dwell upon it. Who wants to think about depressing things when there are matters of shared closet space and adopting pets to consider? It would never have occurred to us then that we would one day be legally married and that we would be fighting the federal government for recognition of our marriage so that we could finally resolve Sergio’s immigration status.

A lot has changed over the years. Some people have always objected to the legal recognition of my marriage and, while some still do, I won’t debate it with them because my mind’s pretty well closed on the subject.

I’m from Rhode Island, see, and I stand with the 17th century theologian and founder of the Rhode Island colony, Roger Williams, on this one:

“Enforced uniformity confounds civil and religious liberty and denies the principles of Christianity and civility.”

Nowadays, more people are seeing things Williams’ way than aren’t. Which leads me to wonder: If the purpose of enshrining discrimination in federal law was to defend society’s definition of marriage at a time when only 25 percent of Americans favored marriage equality for same-sex couples, then why, when polls now consistently indicate that the majority of Americans support it, is DOMA still the law of the land?

[See this Op-Ed as published here on the Chronicle's website.]

Jon Anthony Carr is a writer, film historian and part-time student at City College of San Francisco. He encourages readers to contact their congressional representatives and ask them to support the Respect for Marriage Act. To learn more, go to stopthedeportations.com or email stopthedeportations [at] gmail.com.

Breaking News from Philadelphia Weekly: Brian & Anton to Marry This Weekend, DOMA Deportation Still Looms

Anton Tanumihardja fought a Valentine’s Day deportation and won a temporary reprieve,
but their legal battle against DOMA has just begun.  (Photo by Jeff Fusco)

Readers of this site will remember the victory achieved by The DOMA Project’s Stop The Deportations campaign in the case of Anton Tanumihadja earlier this year.  (See “Deportation Delayed For Philly Couple,” Philadelphia Gay News and media coverage of Anton and Brian’s fight against deportation on CNN and NPRMetroWeeky, and Queerty).

Anton was scheduled for deportation on Valentine’s Day when he reached out to us at the beginning of February for help. His partner, Brian Andersen, and the staff at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) worked hard diligently with Stop The Deportations to bring their plight to national attention.  After successfully winning a reprieve from deportation, Brian and Anton have continued to plan their future together. In an extensive interview with  the Philadelphia Weekly, they disclosed for the first time that they will marry this weekend in Washington, D.C. We congratulate Brian and Anton on their marriage and assure them that we will continue to fight to keep them together in this country.

Here’s the full article from today’s Philadelphia Weekly.

TOWLEROAD: White House Pushes Immigration Reform When Asked About Halting DOMA Deportations

See original post here.

Andrew Sullivan: DOMA Tearing a Marriage Apart

AmericaBlog: DOMA Rips Apart Married Binational Couples

QUEERTY: Cristina & Monica Face DOMA Deportation Hearing in December, They Need Repeal Now!

Cristina & Monica Featured in Video Highlighting DOMA’s Harm on Married Binational Couple Fighting Deportation

Today Freedom to Marry released a video produced in partnership with In The Life Media telling the moving story of Cristina Alcota and Monica Ojeda, who, though legally married, face deportation or separation because the so-called Defense of Marriage Act denies married same-sex couples immigration protections. (Scroll down to view the video in Spanish, or to view in Spanish with English subtitles, click here.)

“Cristina and Monica fell in love, made a lifetime commitment to one another, and got married. Now they spend every day worrying about whether they will be ripped apart or forced into exile in order to stay together because the so-called Defense of Marriage Act keeps the U.S. government from honoring their marriage,” said Evan Wolfson, Founder and President of Freedom to Marry. “If not for DOMA, Cristina would be able to petition for Monica as her spouse without any difficulty. It is time to overturn DOMA and ensure that all Americans are treated fairly and equally under the law.”

Married lesbian and gay binational couples have moved to the forefront of the fight against DOMA since the launch of The DOMA Project’s Stop The Deportations Campaign last summer.

“We recognized that support for Marriage Equality in the United States had shifted dramatically in our favor, said Lavi Soloway, attorney for Cristina and Monica and co-founder of the Stop The Deportations campaign.  ”Increasingly, binational couples were marrying in the five states and the District of Colombia where marriage equality had been achieved. We decided to take on DOMA with a group of married binational couples leading the charge, something that had not been done before. We focused specifically on married couples facing deportation to illustrate DOMA’s cruelest impact: tearing apart our families and destroying marriages.  As a result of our work, the plight of binational couples is now more accurately understood as harm caused by DOMA. It is a simple matter of equality. Without DOMA, gay and lesbian Americans would be able to petition for their spouses under the existing provisions of U.S. immigration law. It is, therefore, imperative that DOMA be repealed and that a moratorium on deportations of spouses of lesbian and gay American be implemented by the administration immediately so that all families are protected.”

Cristina and Monica were among the founding couples of the Stop The Deportations campaign. For the past eight months they have shared their story and bravely fought against DOMA in immigration court and the media, winning a reprieve from deportation earlier this year on the basis of their marriage. Christina and Monica have been in the forefront of the campaign urging the Obama Administration to halt deportations of law-abiding spouses of lesbian and gay American citizens pending the outcome of legal challenges to DOMA.

Cristina and Monica met several years ago when Cristina was in school for social work. They married in a ceremony in Connecticut. An American citizen, Cristina petitioned for her wife Monica, an Argentinean national, to obtain a “green card.”  Because they are a same-sex couple, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act bars the federal government from honoring their marriage for the purposes of immigration, and Cristina’s petition for Monica cannot be approved. Still they continue their fight to build a future together in this country. In March, an immigration judge delayed their case in light of court challenges finding DOMA unconstitutional, and the Department of Justice’s determination that DOMA is indefensible under the Constitution.  They return to immigration court on December 6 to once again fight for the right to be together.

Of marriage, Cristina Alcota says in the video “You’re doing this to be with the person you love for the rest of your life… marriage is a bond that cannot be broken that easily.” She goes on to say “The government doesn’t recognize that our marriage is valid for purposes of immigration because of DOMA and we are facing being either torn apart or being removed from this country.”
Cristina is a social worker and Monica is an antique furniture restorer. The two women currently live in Queens, New York.

Cristina and Monica have appeared numerous times in the media as activists for the DOMA Project’s Stop The Deportations campaign, including:  CNN, New York Daily News (twice), Gay City News (twice) and NY1 Pura Politica.

Binational Couples Forced to Choose: Love or Country?

Los Angeles Times: Same-Sex Couples In Exile Find Rough Road to Immigration, Featuring DOMA Project Participants

Los Angeles Times reporter Paloma Esquivel worked for months interviewing binational couples in exile who are participants in our project to fight back against DOMA. She has featured the stories of Jesse and Max in London and Linas and Jan in Stockholm. The full article is here. Read latest update on Jesse and Max here.

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This is a pro-bono project of the law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC. Posts on this website are offered for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. The law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC has offices in New York and Los Angeles. Our practice is limited to U.S. Immigration & Nationality Law.