Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Married Couple's Status [Temporarily] Recognized by Immigration Officials

by Kathy Drasky

Yesterday's ruling by a New York immigration judge to delay the deportation of an Argentinian woman married to an American woman truly raises the bar in our fight for equal immigration rights.

While Out4Immigration stops short of calling this ruling "historic", it is probably safe to say it is a "game changer."

According to the Daily News (a mainstream New York tabloid), the judge delayed her decision until December, when she will review the case of Monica Alcota (right) from Argentina, who legally married US citizen Cristina Ojeda (left) in Connecticut. If the couple were heterosexual, they would have been able to file an I-130 form immediately after their marriage and Monica would be on the path to citizenship by now. But, because the US federal government does not recognize same-sex marriages, the couple was about to be torn apart.

Based on February's decision by President Obama and US Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the judge in this case, Terry Bain, "put a hold on Alcota's deportation order while the couple waits to see if DOMA is overturned and their green card application goes through."

Represented by Lavi Soloway, of Masliah & Soloway, the leading firm in same-sex binational couple immigration cases, it was argued that "removal proceedings should be terminated consistent with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s long-standing policy of prosecutorial discretion which favors family unification and the accommodation of sympathetic humanitarian circumstances. ICE and the Court should consider the rapidly changing landscape of DOMA. That changing landscape includes the Obama Administration’s new position on DOMA which is expected to dramatically alter the course of future litigation against DOMA."

Out4Immigration cautions that regardless of being married, in a civil union or domestic partnership, no same-sex binational couple should attempt to file I-130 petitions or any other documents without the advice of a competent immigration attorney. We refer you to Masliah & Soloway's Stop the Deportation Project. No one should knowingly overstay a visa. If you are in jeopardy of this, we urge you to immediately get legal advice.

We are on the path to getting equal immigration rights with legislation like the Respect for Marriage Act which will end DOMA, and the eventual reintroduction of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) which can be our temporary fix adding the words "or permanent partner" to immigration law until we can federally be known as "spouses". We also have a chance at administrative adjustments to immigration law that may result from more cases like Monica and Cristina's.

What can you do to bring change about faster? Tell your story! There are many ways to do this. Almost every day we post news and information about how same-sex binational couples are stepping up and taking action on the Out4Immigration Facebook page. Join us there - and get involved!

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