VICTORY! Immigration Judge Delays “DOMA Deportation” for Gay Couple for a Third Time, Giving USCIS Another Chance to Approve Their Green Card Petition
DOMA Project participants, Brian and Alfonso, were due in San Francisco Immigration Court today to face the Immigration Judge, again. Back in March 2012, at their first hearing, Alfonso faced deportation after being stopped for a traffic violation and being placed in the custody of Immigration & Customs Enforcement. Brian filed a green card petition for Alfonso based on their marriage, and decided to fight for that green card. Bravely and defiantly, Brian and Alfonso told their story over and over. Alfonso was brought to the United States from Mexico when he was only 14 years old by his parents and has always lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. The rest of his family members obtained green cards or U.S. citizenship, but Alfonso was left behind as he aged-out of provisions meant to keep parents and children together.
Alfonso and Brian met in 2001 and have been together as a committed couple for almost 12 years. In March 2012, surrounded by the media outside the Immigration Court, Brian and Alfonso celebrated their first victory, when the Immigration Judge agreed to postpone proceedings for seven months to allow USCIS to process the green card petition. Despite DOMA, both the government prosecutor and the Judge appeared to support the couple’s determination to fight for full equality. When October 2012 rolled around, USCIS still had not made a decision on the green card petition, so Brian and Alfonso, through their attorney, DOMA Project co-founder, Lavi Soloway, asked the Immigration Judge to delay the case again. She agreed. The new hearing date, May 2, 2013 was put on the Court’s calendar.
Brian and Alfonso waited anxiously for a decision from USCIS. They were disappointed when the San Francisco District Office of USCIS denied the petition on the basis of DOMA last November without even giving them the respect and dignity of the green card interview they deserved. They quickly appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). In March, with a deportation hearing just about a month away, they decided to ask the Immigration Judge to delay the case again. The couple knew that delays of this nature were highly unusual. It was already a year since their first appearance in Court and they were not sure the Immigration Judge would agree to delay the case further now that USCIS had denied the petition.
In their latest request to the Judge, they asked for more time, pointing out that the BIA was rejecting all denials of green card petitions decided by USCIS on the basis of Section 3 of DOMA and that the BIA was re-opening those petitions and sending them back USCIS ordering full adjudication including interviews. The Immigration Judge appears to have sided again with Brian and Alfonso, providing enough time for the BIA to rule on their appeal and for the USCIS to finally approve their green card petition before the next hearing date. Brian and Alfonso are confident that the BIA will soon re-open their green card petition, and send it back to USCIS for complete adjudication. They see the light at the end of the tunnel in their fight for equality.
With the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA less than two months away the climate has shifted considerably in their favor. At the last minute, the Court called to inform Brian and Alfonso that the Judge had agreed to postpone proceedings until November 2013. When they go back to Court this fall, Brian and Alfonso expect the deportation proceedings to be terminated so that Alfonso can finally receive his green card.