Edwin & Rodrigo To Meet With Deportation Officer

This morning, shortly before 9 a.m., Edwin Echegoyen and Rodrigo Martinez will present themselves to the Deportation and Removal Branch at the Baltimore District Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. As of late Tuesday night, the Deportation and Removals Branch had offered no reprieve from the obligation to surrender no later than March 9. Therefore, in compliance with the notice Edwin received in February demanding that he surrender Rodrigo to the custody of DHS under the terms of the bond agreement executed in 2004, the couple will travel from their home in Rockville, Maryland and, accompanied by closer family members for moral support, they will meet with the government officials who will ultimately decide Rodrigo’s fate.  At this point, given his several year-old outstanding Order of Removal, Immigration & Customs Enforcement is likely take Rodrigo into custody on Wednesday and hold him at a government detention facility pending deportation. It is also possible that they may also consider other options including a release under an Order of Supervision (similar to parole,  it would require Rodrigo to comply with routine appointments to check in with the Deportation Officer as they continue to monitor his case). We await news of the Deportation Officer’s final decision on Rodrigo’s case, which will not be known until Rodrigo surrenders to the custody of the Department of Homeland Security this morning.

EDGE Reports: Edwin Echegoyen Must Surrender His Husband, Rodrigo Martinez, for Deportation

The complete article was posted by EDGE on Monday March 7.

“A gay Maryland man will have to surrender his partner for deportation on Wednesday if his last minute appeals fail.

Edwin Echegoyen met Rodrigo Martinez at the gym in 2003-Martinez had come to the United States from El Salvador on a tourist visa a couple of weeks earlier. The two men began dating. And they soon settled in Rockville, Maryland.

The men decided to vacation in Puerto Rico with three other gay couples in 2004 after Echegoyen’s mother passed away from cancer. Authorities detained Martinez as he and Echegoyen attempted to board their flight back to Maryland. They released Martinez after Echegoyen posted bail.

“He was released under my own custody and we’ve been working through the legal system to find some kind of relief for him to stay here with me,” Echegoyen told EDGE.

These efforts included applying for a work visa and seeking asylum based on Martinez’s fear he would suffer anti-gay persecution in his homeland. Both petitions were denied. And Echegoyen received a letter from the Department of Homeland Security late last month that said he would have to surrender Martinez to federal authorities in Baltimore on March 9 because he posted his bail in 2004.

Martinez and Echegoyen married in the District of Columbia on March 1. Echegoyen obtained a certified marriage certificate from the court, and filed a marriage-based petition with the Department of Homeland Security that would allow him to sponsor Martinez for residency.

“It is so upsetting because we want to celebrate,” said Echegoyen, noting some of his and Martinez’s friends attended their wedding during their lunch hour. “This is something we had talked about doing-getting married, but not under these circumstances.”

DOMA Deportations

The Defense of Marriage Act specifically bans the federal government from recognizing marriages of same-sex couples for immigration and other purposes. The Obama administration announced last month it will no longer defend DOMA in federal court.

Congressman Chris Van Hollen [D-Md.], in whose district Martinez and Echegoyen live, co-sponsored a bill in the last Congress that would have repealed DOMA. Congressman Jerrold Nadler [D-N.Y.] has said he plans to reintroduce a DOMA repeal measure in the House, while U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein [D-Calif.] has indicated she would follow suit in the U.S. Senate.

“The recent news of deportations involving legally married gay and lesbian bi-national couples is heartbreaking,” U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand [D-N.Y.] told EDGE in a statement. “It is critical that we repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and ensure that immigration laws respect all loving, committed marriages.”

“In the name of the Defense of Marriage Act, gay and lesbian couples literally find their marriages being destroyed,” said lawyer Lavi Soloway, noting many of the estimated 36,000 bi-national couples in the United States have children. “It’s the fabric of American society that’s being torn when you deport somebody. It’s not some other person, some stranger, some alien that the law would refer to that person.”

Soloway, who also represents Martinez and Echegoyen, continues to pursue an emergency stay on the pending deportation and a petition to reopen Martinez’s asylum request. “We have a great opportunity to stop the deportation,” he told EDGE just before a hearing before an immigration judge in Baltimore.

Echegoyen, however, said the ongoing legal battle has certainly taken its toll.

“We’re not sleeping because what if March 9 comes and there’s no relief,” he said. “It’s such a horrible, horrible situation to put people in-to choose between your family and your country. What do you do?”

Edwin & Rodrigo Featured on DC Local News

Delia Gonçalves did a great job on this report (“Deportation Controversy After DC Marriage”), but she did misspeak when she said that the Obama administration would not enforce DOMA. Of course, as readers of our site know, on February 23 the President and Attorney General announced that they would no longer defend DOMA in court, but the Executive branch will continue to enforce it as it remains the law of the land for now. This short piece captures the essence of the discrimination against gay and lesbian binational couples and elicits the first public statement from Edwin & Rodrigo’s Congressman, Chris Van Hollen. Congressman Van Hollen, however, does not go as far as his colleagues Rep. Nadler and Rep. Lofgren who last week called for the administration to halt the deportations. We must keep the pressure on our elected officials to achieve a policy for all binational couples facing deportation. Please call Congressman Van Hollen and thank him for his support, but urge him to call on the White House to formulate a policy that allows individual DHS Trial Attorneys, Immigration Judges and other adjudicators to exercise prosecutorial discretion and delay or defer action on deportations involving married same-sex binational couples. As we get closer to March 9, we are asking everyone to please make three phone calls and ask these elected officials representing Edwin & Rodrigo in Congress to fight for a policy to halt the DOMA deportations: Call Congressman Chris Van Hollen at (202) 225-5341, Senator Barbara Mikulski (202) 224-4654 and Senator Benjamin Cardin (202) 224-4524.

Ask Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) to Call on the Administration to Halt DOMA Deportations

Call Congressman Chris Van Hollen at (202) 225-5341, Senator Barbara Mikulski (202) 224-4654 and Senator Benjamin Cardin (202) 224-4524. Ask that they call on the Obama administration to halt all DOMA deportations immediately.

Queerty’s article appeared here today.

Only 2 Days to Stop the DOMA Deportation of Rodrigo Martinez: Call Rep. Chris Van Hollen

Rep. Chris Van Hollen

What can you do right now to help stop the deportation of Rockville, Maryland resident Rodrigo Martinez? Call Congressman Chris Van Hollen’s Washington, DC office at Phone: (202) 225-5341 and ask that he call on the Obama administration to put a halt to all DOMA Deportations.
Rodrigo and his American partner of 8 years married last week in Washington, DC, but because of DOMA, their marriage certificate, even with its “triple seal” from Chief Judge Lee Satterfield of the DC Superior Court means nothing under current federal law. The Obama administration has the power to delay this deportation through a routine exercise of discretion.

Rodrigo & Edwin on their wedding day

After you call Representative Van Hollen, Edwin and Rodrigo’s Congressman, you can help us keep up the momentum! Reach out to your own Senators and Representatives. Ask them to join Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) who last week called on the Obama administration to halt the deportations of spouses of gay and lesbian Americans. There is still time to save Rodrigo & Edwin’s marriage and to prevent Rodrigo’s deportation to El Salvador on Wednesday. But we must also fight for a policy that stops all “DOMA Deportations” immediately.

Trenton (NJ) Times Reports on Josh & Henry’s Fight Against DOMA and Deportation

Read full article here.

“Josh Vandiver never expected to become an activist. A sixth-year graduate student at Princeton University, he planned to spend this spring finishing his dissertation and enjoying his new life with his husband of a year and a half, Henry Velandia.

Instead, they’re in the middle of a fight to keep their marriage together. Velandia, who first came to the U.S. from Venezuela in 2002 on a visitor visa, is facing deportation. Although they married legally in Connecticut and have been together since 2006, Velandia is unable to qualify for a spouse visa because the couple is in a same-sex marriage.

The two are now among the most prominent voices calling for a moratorium on deportations of individuals in same-sex marriages while Congress and the federal courts determine the fate of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, which means these couples do not receive typical marriage benefits, including the ability to sponsor a spouse for immigration. 

“Our fight is to stay together,” Velandia said in an interview. “We hope that the government will realize the damage DOMA is causing to many couples in our position.”

At first, Velandia and Vindiver weren’t optimistic. But after President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced that the administration believes DOMA is unconstitutional, Vandiver and Velandia have new hope for success. 

The president’s statement doesn’t change the law. But, as their attorney Lavi Soloway explains, it does change how we understand the position they’re in. 

“Henry is now prohibited from getting a green card on the basis of a law that the president thinks is unconstitutional, that has been found unconstitutional by a federal district court judge, and that Congress is now working to repeal,” Soloway said.”

SF Weekly: Binational Gay Couples Fighting DOMA and Deportation

“Gay couples are already using President Obama’s new stance against the Defense of Marriage Act as a weapon to fight deportations of their foreign spouses. The couples hope that the administration’s declaration last week that the law that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman is unconstitutional will help defer or ultimately save the foreign half of the couple from deportation.

Starting last summer, the New York and Los Angeles-based Masliah & Soloway law firm, which specializes in gay immigration issues, decided to turn from advocacy to direct action, says attorney Lavi Soloway. (Soloway was one of the founders of Immigration Equality, a non-profit that focuses on gay immigration issues.)  Based on the Proposition 8 ruling in San Francisco and a Massachusetts judge declaring DOMA unconstitutional, the firm decided to challenge the current immigration laws around foreign gay spouses.”

Read full article here.

Monica & Cristina Appear on NY1: Pura Política

Watch the whole interview here.

Love in the Time of Deportation: After 8 Years Together, Edwin & Rodrigo Have Five Days Left to Save Their Marriage

Edwin Echegoyen and Ricardo Martinez were married
by Professor Ed Ingebretsen on March 1, 2011
Ingebretsen was ordained as a Jesuit Priest in 1981
and is outspoken on issues of religion and culture.

Edwin Echegoyen and Rodrigo Martinez were married on the promenade outside the D.C. Superior Court on March 1 before a group of two dozen friends, family and co-workers. Immediately after the ceremony, Edwin, an American citizen, filed an I-130 Alien Relative Petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requesting a “green card” for his spouse, who is a citizen of El Salvador.

After 8 years together, Edwin and Rodrigo have only five days left to stop the Department of Homeland Security from executing a deportation. Rodrigo has been ordered to surrender himself to the custody of DHS on Wednesday March 9. (Read more about Edwin and Rodrigo here.)

Please help us stop the deportation of Rodrigo Martinez.

Call both the DC and local offices of Edwin & Rodrigo’s United States Senators:
Senator Barbara Mikulski (202) 224-4654 and (410) 962-4510
Senator Benjamin Cardin (202) 224-4524 and (301) 762-2974
Representative Chris Von Hollen (202) 225-5341 and (301) 424-3501

Ask them to contact the Department of Homeland Security Deportation Unit in the Baltimore Field Office immediately.

We only have 5 days left to stop this deportation.  The information you need:  RODRIGO MARTINEZ-RODRIGUEZ (File No. A 96 336 082).

In response to the Edwin & Rodrigo’s case, two members of Congress this week publicly called for a halt to “DOMA Deportations” (see here and here).  Please ask the Washington, DC staff of Senators Mikulski and Cardin and Congressman Chris Van Hollen to join Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Rep. Jerrold Nadler and issue a public statement calling on the the Obama administration to halt “DOMA deportations.”

DOMA, Immigration, and ENDA: The Ripple Effects of Heightened Scrutiny

From Towleroad, DOMA: The Ripple Effects of Heightened Scrutiny, by Ari Ezra Waldman.

“But, the DOMA decision will have more direct impact. For example, Lavi Soloway, an attorney friend of mine, leading advocate of gays in immigration cases and founder of Stop the Deportations: The DOMA Project, has taken the DOJ’s position and argued that since it is DOMA that is forcing legally married binational same-sex couples to be ripped apart — DOMA prevents the federal recognition of their marriage, thus preventing a foreign national spouse from legally remaining in the United States — the Administration’s view that DOMA is unconstitutional should, at a minimum, become part of immigration officials’ decision-making process when it comes to how to proceed with deporting the foreign national spouse of legally married same-sex couples.
Mr. Soloway’s position raises an important distinction — the difference between defending a law in court and enforcing the law in practice. He is essentially arguing that the DOJ’s official statement that DOMA is unconstitutional should inform the opinions of the the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), a fifteen-judge panel that serves as the highest administrative body for interpreting immigration laws. Mr. Soloway is right. The Huffington Post implies that Mr. Soloway is asking that the Administration stop enforcing DOMA through “innovative strategies” to ensure families can stay together. That is not the case. Mr. Soloway is asking immigration officials to include the Administration’s view of DOMA’s constitutionality as part of the context in which the officials decide how to proceed with binational same-sex couples. Whether the immigration judge grants continuances (delays), deferred action (holding deportation in abeyance) or administrative termination (almost like ending the deportation proceeding) is up to the judge’s discretion. So, Mr. Soloway wants to make sure that these judges take the Administration’s view of DOMA into account.”

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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.