DHS Signals Quick End to Temporary Abeyance Policy For Green Card Cases Filed By Gay and Lesbian Couples, As Final Guidance Is Awaited

Update: “The Hold is Over,” Metro Weekly, March 30, 2011.

Breaking News from Metro Weekly:

Excerpt below:

The announcement on Monday, March 28, that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had issued guidance instructing its field offices to put on hold cases involving same-sex, married bi-national couples seeking a green card for the foreign spouse sent shockwaves throughout the immigration and LGBT communities. Further clarification from Department of Homeland Security officials, however, suggests a much more limited, nuanced decision that leaves the issue unresolved and couples’ futures in doubt.

On Monday afternoon, USCIS spokesman Christopher Bentley told Metro Weekly, “USCIS has issued guidance to the field asking that related cases be held in abeyance while awaiting final guidance related to distinct legal issues.”

Despite statements from leading organizations – most prominently, Immigration Equality – suggesting that the cases would be held in abeyance until DOMA’s constitutionality is settled, a DHS official told Metro Weekly on Monday night that the abeyance could last for as little as a week.

“[P]ursuant to CIS’s routine practice when there’s a new law or regulation that will potentially affect their resolution of certain cases, they hold [the cases] in abeyance until they get the final guidance from the general counsel’s office,” the official said. “DHS expects this issue to be resolved imminently.”

After that abeyance has ended, the official notes, “[I]n individual cases, USCIS has always had the authority to exercise discretion on a case-by-case basis, in light of the unique circumstances of that particular case.”

Associated Press Interviews Noemi Masliah

“Noemi Masliah, an immigration lawyer for 35-year-old Monica Alcota, said the judge’s decision to adjourn her client’s deportation case until December gives the government a chance to fully review her petition for legal residency based on her marriage.

“The right thing to do, and this judge did do the right thing, is to adjourn this case and see what happens down the road,” Masliah said. “Given that the law is so up in the air … it’s hard to enforce at this point in a negative way.”

Masliah, who is part of a group trying to push the government to stop denying immigration benefits to same sex couples, said she hopes that all such applications will be put on hold indefinitely until the future of the Defense of Marriage Act is settled in court.”

Full article here.

Together for 12 Years, Nick and Graham File Fiancé Visa Petition in Exile and take on DOMA

In the wake of the tremendous news from USCIS yesterday that it will accept green card applications for gay couples and put final decisions on those applications in “abeyance” or on hold temporarily, it is important to remember that as we take tiny incremental steps toward full parity for same-sex binational couples in the U.S., thousands of gay and lesbian couples have been forced into exile or separation over the years. The policy announcement yesterday does not bring those couples any closer to a solution that will allow them to return to live together in this country. It is it vital that we not become complacent; we must continue to tell our stories and stay fully engaged in the fight to end the cruel reign of DOMA. DOMA will continue to destroy families and tear apart married gay and lesbian couples until it is repealed or struck down by the courts. We must actively fight for its demise in both the court of public opinion and in Congress if we are finally to bring an end to the long nightmare suffered by tens of thousands of binational gay and lesbian couples.

Nicholas and Graham

Like many other couples who are married or in long-term relationships, Graham and I knew instinctively that we would be together forever from the moment we met on October 24, 1998. Graham was living in Florida on a valid visa and when we met he was in the process of changing visa status so that he could start a business. Unfortunately, that status change was never granted, and before long Graham’s right to stay in the U.S. legally had expired. By then it was too late, for Graham and I were deeply in love and living as a couple. Of course we knew that if we were a heterosexual couple, there would be no difficulty. We would have married and after some paperwork and an interview the love of my life would have been given a green card, even if he overstayed his non immigrant visa status. But of course, that is the crux of the problem. Being a bi-national gay couple, we were about to experience 12 long years of cruelty courtesy of discriminatory immigration laws and the Defense of Marriage Act.

We understood how difficult life would be. Graham was unable to work, or obtain health insurance or enjoy any of the other privileges and protections that would be normally within reach for “lawful permanent residents” or “green card” holders in the U.S. Graham could not visit his mom back in the UK either, as he would not have been alowed back in the U.S. for at least 10 years. When his grandfather became terminally ill, his mother was forced to contend with this family crisis by herself, because Graham, her own child, was trapped by US immigration laws. As bad our circumstances were, the alternative was unthinkable. We were inseparable and utterly devoted to one another. We could not imagine a life apart.

As the U.S. citizen partner, I provided for both of us entirely, working tirelessly to build a life we could share, while my own government forced us onto the margins where our relationship didn’t exist in the law. I had to give up a job I loved in a bookstore in order to make more money in a job I hated, insulating attics in the Florida heat. I supported Graham financially and emotionally and I was painfully aware that I was unable to sponsor him for legal status—not as my spouse, partner or fiancé—-due to laws preventing same sex couples from doing so.

Despite the obvious hardships of being a bi-national same sex couple, we were happier than either of us had ever been in Florida. My family welcomed Graham with open arms and regarded him as my “husband.” Graham became a “son-in law” to my parents, brother to my older sister and older brother and an uncle to my nephews and neices.

Initially, on a tight budget, we lived with a roommate friend; it meant that Graham and I had to share a small single bed in a tiny room. It wasn’t much, but it was ours and it was bliss. Working hard and saving, I purchased our first home for us within a year of being together.

In February 2000 we had a commitment ceremony in Orlando. We knew it wasn’t a legal ceremony, but we had a Minister who was happy to perform the ceremony and lots of friends and family (my family in Orlando and Graham’s Mom from England) were there to share our special day with us. We had two best men and six bridesmaids, one of which was my sister. It was absolutely wonderful and an event we will both cherish for the rest of our lives.

By 2003, it was time to take a step up the property ladder. We sold our house and bought what was for us our “dream” Florida home. The construction industry was still in a boom so I was making decent money. At the same time, as we reached our mid 30s we became increasingly aware that our future was uncertain. If I were to lose my job through injury or an economic downturn we would have lost our home. If I were to lose my life, Graham would have been left destitute and alone in a country refusing to acknowledge his relationship to me.

For almost seven years we lead a truly wonderful life, yet the fear of being separated never completely left our minds. We were always wary of being discovered, perhaps, in retrospect overly so. We were so afraid Graham would be found out that Graham even avoided medical treatment at times when he desperately needed it because he was too afraid to make his existence known to anyone. We were happy in our own little world, surrounded by family and close friends. Unfortunately all that changed in 2001 following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, DC.

Due to our location near to Walt Disney World, we couldn’t go anywhere without running into heightened security; police and security guards almost always asked for identification. Graham was so terrified that he became a recluse. So afraid was Graham that a routine security check would make his presence known to the immigration authorities that at one point he actually stayed inside my home for six months without ever leaving. Graham’s health suffered and ultimately he had no choice but to see a doctor. He was diagnosed with agoraphobia and social anxiety disorder, which were attributed to the years of insurmountable stress and fear of living in hiding that climaxed during 2001.

We endured this life for a further three years until we could take the pressure no longer.

In 2004 we made the agonizing decision to leave the United States. There were many ways in which this was a hard choice, but what made it especially cruel was the fact that leaving meant Graham would be barred for 10 years upon departure from the U.S. as a penalty for overstaying his original visa (and, of course, Graham would not be eligible for a “waiver” as the spouse of a U.S. citizen) . It was like we were consigning ourselves to imprisonment abroad. In the U.K., where Graham is from, the government had instituted provisions recognizing same sex couples for the purpose of immigration. So we knew that was our only choice. When I say choice, I don’t mean free choice. We were forcibly exiled there, it was the only chance we had to live as free, equal and dignified people with all the rights of any person residing in the U.K. We had to put an end to the hiding and the fear.

When I shared the news of our decision, my family in Florida was devastated. My mother had already lost two of her sons to muscular dystrophy and a daughter in an horrific motorcycle accident, and now, she felt like she was losing yet another child. My brother and sister were losing another sibling, and all for the simple fact that there is no recognition of same sex couples under U.S. immigration law. For Graham, it was heartbreaking to see how this decision affected both me and my family. I was being forced to move to a country that I had never even visited. I was leaving behind all we had ever known, and most cruelly, I was leaving behind my family.

We were forced to sell our home to pay for legal costs and moving expenses. All that we had built and loved came to an end. Our American Dream was over.

We left the United States in January 2005. I entered the UK on an Unmarried Partners Visa. In February 2006, we became “civil partners” which awarded us the privilege of becoming one another’s next of kin under UK and European law.

Graham with Nicholas’ mother

But life in the UK has not been easy. We have struggled to make a life for ourselves here and continue to do so. We miss our old lives so terribly. I miss my homeland and my family. I have seen my Mother perhaps three or four times in the last six years when she was able to visit us. Graham is not allowed to visit the US and financial restraints make it virtually impossible for me to visit. Leaving America was the hardest thing we have ever had to do. Part of our lives died the day we left and the longing to return burns as fiercely now as it did then.

We have been together for twelve years now and we have only been apart once in all that time when I returned to Florida for a visit to see my family after my stepfather was diagnosed with cancer. Understandably, my Mother was unable to leave her husband so she paid for my flight to return home. We had a huge family reunion, but the fact that I had to do this without my life partner by my side made it a bitter sweet affair. Everyone kept asking, “Where’s Graham?” No one could believe that in this day and age we still have such archaic laws and notions about homosexuality. The short time I was away was almost unbearable for both of us, so reliant had we become on each other over the years. We spoke to each other twice a day on Skype, and we even had the webcam set up during the reunion so Graham could feel a part of it. Graham was happy for me that I was spending time with my family, but at the same time, he was heartbroken that U.S. law prevented him from returning to the United States to see the family of which he had become an integral part and which loved him so much.

My mom is 75 and my stepfather is 81. My stepfather had his colon removed due to cancer, which has now spread to his lungs and his brain. He is undergoing radiation therapy. A recent stroke has left the left side of his body practically immobile. My stepfather raised me from boyhood. He is the man whom I regard as a father. Now he is extremely ill and I cannot be there for him or to comfort and support my mother who desperately needs me there, because current US law prohibits this from happening. My mother underwent open heart surgery 10 years ago, and although she has recovered from the surgery, the strain of caring for her husband is putting her under immense stress, both physically and mentally. She desperately needs me back home. No mother should be put through such anguish and no son should feel so helpless to do anything to help. It’s such a heart wrenching position to be in. Unless you are going through something like this, you can’t begin to imagine how traumatic this is for someone, knowing that you cannot be there to help and support your own mother, or to be with your stepfather in his fight for survival that few, if any, manage to win.

We have always longed to return to America, but now, more than ever, we really need to be there.  The only thing that prevents us from returning to our family is the Defense of Marriage Act. If this law were not in place, I would be able to marry and sponsor Graham, like millions of other Americans before me who are married to foreign nationals.

Graham and I were 27 when we met. This year, we turn 40. We are as close now as we have ever been. And are utterly devoted to one another. I cannot imagine life without him. He is my everything. He is my world. Yet he knows that were it not for him, I would be back in America, caring for the people I love. I left my home, my family and my country so that we could live without fear of being torn apart, but that life changing decision has come with a hefty price.

To be so utterly compatible with someone and to be so utterly in love, but told you cannot be together because you are the same gender is perhaps the cruelest thing anyone can do to a couple who want nothing more than to live their lives together, surrounded by their family in a country they call home.  We have joined this fight by filing a fiancé visa petition and we will work to urge an end to discrimination against all gay and lesbian binational couples who live in fear of separation or isolated in exile because of the Defense of Marriage Act.

USCIS Announces: Abeyance Policy is National – Green Card Applications Filed By Gay Couples Will Be on Hold, Effectively Halting DOMA Deportations For Now

Read “Game Changer” and Chris Geidner’s Metro Weekly article (here) that broke this news this afternoon. It is vitally important that all couples obtain expert legal advice from immigration attorneys with experience on LGBT issues and DOMA. Also, it is important to note that the USCIS has not made a commitment to holding cases in abeyance for any specific length of time; this policy is discretionary and may be withdrawn at a future date.  For now USCIS is saying that abeyance is the policy as it waits “final guidance related to distinct legal issues.”

GAME CHANGER: Immigration Service to Accept Green Card Applications Filed by Married Gay & Lesbian Couples and Hold Them In Abeyance

[Updated 3/28/2011: Abeyance policy is national, but is temporary pending final legal guidance. Updated 3/29/2011: “Confusion Over Policy on Married Gay Immigrants,” New York Times.]

As was reported Friday by Newsweek/ The Daily Beast, two United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) District Offices have confirmed that alien relative petitions and green card applications filed by married same-sex couples will not be denied. Instead, final decisions on these applications will be held in abeyance, i.e. put on hold.  This historic first seems to be directly linked to the Obama administration’s change of position on DOMA announced on February 23.  The DOMA Project welcomes the new and exciting potential this presents for married gay and lesbian couples to obtain legal status and prevent deportations of the foreign partner. However, in this new and rapidly changing legal environment, we urge attorneys and binational couples to proceed with an abundance of caution.

The significance of the “abeyance” policy is two-fold: first, it means that petitions and applications that normally would have been denied because of DOMA, will now remain in “pending” status, and second, this status will give protection and benefits to the applicant for an indefinite period. The “abeyance” policy, it is presumed, will put these cases on hold while the ultimate fate of DOMA is determined by a decision of the Supreme Court or through repeal by Congress.

This tremendous news comes after months of advocacy by national immigration law and policy groups, LGBT organizations and advocates including The DOMA Project. While The DOMA Project has focused primarily on stopping deportations, we have also engaged in wide-ranging advocacy and provided legal representation in related cases where couples are fighting separation or exile.

As readers of this site know, since July 2010 we have filed more than a dozen alien relative petitions on behalf of gay or lesbian American citizens for their spouses as part of our Stop The Deportations campaign.  Our campaign has been successful in slowing and stopping several deportations through a combination of legal strategies and aggressive advocacy efforts, including reaching out to members of Congress and working closely with executive branch agencies.

In the coming days and weeks, the attorneys at Masliah & Soloway, who launched The DOMA Project last year, will be filing green card cases on carefully chosen behalf of several same-sex binational couples who are not currently facing deportation proceedings.  We have been working for months with hundreds of binational couples in an effort to determine which couples are in the best position to file green card petitions and applications. For some couples, we believe that time is now.

This latest evolution in our strategy to aggressively fight for binational couples is the culmination of an 18-year long commitment by our law firm⎯led by two gay immigrants⎯to fight for an end to discrimination against lesbian and gay binational couples.

USCIS District Offices to Accept Green Card Applications 
from Gay Couples and Hold Them in Abeyance

What does this mean for an estimated 36,000 binational couples?

Some married gay and lesbian binational couples will now have an opportunity to take a major leap toward full equality under our nation’s immigration laws.  However, it is important to remember that DOMA is still the law of the land and despite this tremendous news, filing green card applications in this uncertain environment could result in a foreign spouse being placed in removal (deportation) proceedings. For that reason, no couple should make a move toward marrying or filing on the basis of the marriage without first consulting an immigration attorney with specific expertise in both LGBT immigration issues and the developing landscape of DOMA.

Generally, the risk all couples face if they chose to file is that they may ultimately be placed into removal proceedings. Because the announced policy is one that was developed at the discretion of the District Directors of the offices involved, it is not yet known whether this policy will be extended nationally nor whether it may be changed in the future. Again, it bears repetition that couples and their attorneys must proceed with extreme caution.

This development will have the greatest impact on two groups of couples:

1. Married gay and lesbian couples where the foreign spouse lawfully entered the United States but is now an “overstay” and without lawful status.  For these couples, the filing of an alien relative petition and application for adjustment of status to permanent resident should automatically give temporary lawful status to the foreign spouse for the duration of the period that the case is pending. If these applications are in fact held in abeyance until DOMA’s final demise, this could mean that couples who have wrestled for years with the nightmare of deportation, separation and instability caused by a lack of lawful status may now be on the verge of a new reality.  The foreign spouse will not only receive (temporary) lawful status, but also employment authorization and potentially other benefits, as long as they have a pending green card application.  Unfortunately, despite the temptation that this will present to many couples, for many it will be better to wait until there is greater certainty about this policy and the future of DOMA.

2. Married gay and lesbian couples who are already facing removal (deportation) proceedings. It is now likely that we will be able to stop virtually all deportation proceedings involving married gay and lesbian couples who have filed green card petitions/applications and who are, but for DOMA, otherwise eligible to receive a green card based on their marriage.  Even couples in removal (deportation) proceedings must proceed cautiously when considering whether to marry and file a green card petition/application based on that marriage.  However, unlike those who are not in proceedings, the risk of deportation is very real, and the likelihood is that this new development will provide protection to almost every couple facing deportation, if they are currently in proceedings.

There is light at the end of the tunnel for binational couples.  The individual stories of binational couples suffering separation, exile or the threat of deportation continue to be our most important weapon in the fight against DOMA.  There is still a long road ahead before we achieve full equality and we cannot be complacent.  

Please contact us at stopthedeportations [at] gmail.com if you want to get involved in our work or if you have any questions about the new “abeyance” policy.

[Update: March 29, 2011: It now seems certain that the temporary national abeyance policy announced March 28, 2011 will end shortly. Government attorneys working on final guidance suggest that USCIS will retain case-by-case discretion but will not be permitted to put on hold indefinitely all green card applications filed by married gay and lesbian couples.  The DOMA Project will continue to advocate for a uniform abeyance policy, for the interim period while DOMA continues to be enforced.]

CNN: Argentine Lesbian Escapes Deportation Until Status of Same Sex Marriage Made Clearer

“An Argentine woman living illegally in the United States after overstaying her tourist visa will not be deported until the legality of her same-sex marriage is made more clear.
Judge Terry A. Bain and government attorneys agreed Tuesday to halt deportation hearings in Manhattan’s immigration court for Monica Alcota, 35, who came to the United States from Argentina more than 10 years ago.
Alcota and Cristina Ojeda, 25, a U.S. citizen, were married in Connecticut in 2010 and are arguing that their marital status should allow Alcota permanent residency, their attorney, Lavi Soloway, said. The Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that gay and lesbian couples have the right to get married.
Soloway said no specific reason was given for the judge’s decision to delay the hearing, but added that Bain and the government attorneys were in agreement with several general reasons, including President Obama’s direction to the Department of Justice to enforce, but not defend, Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The act defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman.”

Henry and Josh Speak About Their Fight Against DOMA and Deportation on WZBN-NJ News

This is the best quality video we have at present. We will update this post at a later date.


Married Binational Lesbian Couple Forced into Exile with 3-Year-Old Matthew Because of DOMA

I knew it was going to be a magical year when I stood at the top of the Hill in South East London with my friends, watching the fireworks above Central London on NYE, and as the bell chimed 12, it started to snow. Precisely at midnight.

Three weeks later, having just returned from travelling in Borneo, I was feeling bored one evening, so decided to head out to a women’s night with some friends. As I recall, they took a bit of persuading but eventually a plan started to take shape and they arrived to pick up my roommate and me. Becs was in the back of the car. We had met a few times in 2009 and socialized with the same group, but our communication had been limited to saying hello in passing. (Of course, I’d always thought she was hot!)  Neither of us were looking for a relationship at that point. I wasn’t that evening in January either, but wonderfully, cupid struck.

From that moment on Becs and I were inseparable. We moved in together shortly afterwards and Becs was there proudly holding my hand and surprising me with a room filled with balloons as I celebrated my 30th birthday with my nearest and dearest.

Becs job was in transition (coincidentally she worked in the same building as I did, although for a different company) and we didn’t know where she would be, so we were initially living for the moment, not knowing where our time together would take us. I also knew that Becs had a 3 year old son and was arranging the custody situation.

We decided to take a weekend trip to Amsterdam in March 2010. I’ll never forget that weekend; the hotel was diabolical. We had to shower in a cupboard within the room and the room itself was at the top of about 4 wonky flights of very steep stairs AND the size of a postage stamp. But the view of the canal was breathtaking and it was this weekend that Becs told me that she loved me, and I in return told her that I loved her too. (Unbeknownst to me, Becs had spent much of my birthday party telling my family this very fact!)

If I am honest, we knew from the start we were falling in love with each other, but it was scary to admit it not knowing where the relationship would go. We did know that we wanted to make it work – no matter what. We’ve both had long term relationships before, but when you meet the love of your life, your soulmate, the person for you – you just know.

Fast forward to May, Becs although in the UK on a Tier 1 Highly Skilled Migrant Visa, has to go back to Texas to sort out the custody situation and is required to remain in Texas throughout the proceedings. We don’t know how long it’s going to take.

Meanwhile, I stay on in the house in London and continue to work. We survive each day by emailing and Skyping at night. You know, they should employ us as laptop testers, we put our two through some serious use. Every single night without fail, we would Skype and fall asleep with our Skype up and running on our beds, so we could be as close as we could be. I would love waking up in the morning and watching her sleeping – but equally would be reminded with overwhelming sadness at not being with her. We would potter around at the weekend, doing jobs around the house and chit chatting to each other as though we were in the same room and watch movies together, starting them on our laptops at exactly the same time, whilst keeping our Skype windows open so we could see each other’s reactions. I’d take her on my laptop to friends houses and the pub. And don’t get me wrong, whilst Skype is marvellous – it’s no substitute for the real thing.
The little things that others take for granted are so important, like being wrapped up in a hug at the end of a difficult day, taking in your partner’s familiar smell and just knowing things will be OK, a little cheeky wink while you are out socialising with friends, being able to fall asleep at night in the arms of your loved one, sharing the washing up, or even arguing about who wants to do it!
Skype, in fact, allowed me to be there to help celebrate Matthew’s* (my step-son) 3rd birthday. Though it would have been a much happier event if the group picture had been of me with the rest of the family, and not the family and a computer screen.
Unable to bear being apart, I flew over for 8 precious days with Becs in August 2010. On the 21st of August, in Becs’ Mom’s living room and in front of her Mom, Becs got down on one knee and proposed to me (I actually thought she was giving me a tacky picture frame as a present and making a big ol’ deal out of it!!) And as my friends and family will agree – I’ve NEVER been happier.

It was a tremendously sad day when we had to part and I had to hide myself in the toilets of the airport once through security until I could stop the tears, but we were hopeful there would be some resolution on the custody case.

Unfortunately, this was not to be. So we made a decision – that if Becs was going to be in the U.S. for a considerable amount of time – I would be there with her. Thinking this would be a straightforward process; I did a bit of research and was gobsmacked to see that as a couple in a same sex relationship, we didn’t have the same rights afforded to us as heterosexual couples do. Heterosexual couples could apply for a fiancée visa, sponsor their partner; they could in essence just order a mail order bride from the internet – and Becs and I, in a loving and committed relationship with children involved, we’re not afforded the same rights. How is it that Becs, a tax paying, law abiding U.S. citizen cannot sponsor her fiancée to be with her?

I think this was about the same time the ‘It gets better’ Campaign was being launched after all those tragic suicides and all I could think to myself, after discovering there was NO way for us to be together was, does it? Does it get better?

Finally in November, we couldn’t bear the 6 hour time difference, the late nights; emotionally and financially it was taking its toll on our family. I handed in my notice, moved from our house, back in with my mother (at 30, having moved out at 16, this was a pretty desperate thing to do) and applied for a B2 Tourist Visa. We met the criteria as far as I was concerned.

Having lived in the UK for all of my life – I could show strong ties to the UK. So armed with my declaration that stated I absolutely didn’t want to live in the U.S., but that my partner was going through a custody battle so I wanted to be there to support her, the fact she had a UK Tier 1 Visa, and the fact we had a home to return to, and of course her job – I applied. It was a lengthy and fairly intimidating process and I was immediately turned down for not showing strong enough ties to the UK. I broke down outside the embassy in London. The fact hit me, I couldn’t be there to hold Becs’ hand during one of the most difficult and stressful times of her life.

I had to return to work immediately afterwards, but was sent home by my boss when I got in; she could see I was devastated. I didn’t even need to say the words to Becs, when I had called her from the pay phone outside of the embassy, she could tell by the way I was breathing.

That weekend, I shut myself off from everybody. I couldn’t see an end to this depressing way of living. Ultimately, we want our family to be in the UK – but if we can’t in the meantime, then we should be allowed to live/stay in the US – just as any other heterosexual couple can. WE should be allowed to make that decision based on what is best for OUR family.

Immediately after the B2 Visa denial, I applied for ESTA. Their website said they had to consider it because of my B2 denial. And they got back to me a day later confirming that I could enter the US, but that the final decision would be made at the border. They would let you spend your hard earned money, to be met at the border and sent home. I can’t even think of anything crueler.

Now, I despise flying. I have a huge fear of it, and rely heavily on valium to travel, but even the valium wasn’t helping my nerves. I flew via another state to break up the flight to make it easier, but it was literally the most nervous I have been, knowing that they could want to question me further and had every right to send me back on a flight that very day. It was a strange mixture of anxiousness and desperation to see my fiancée. I was terrified of my own reaction to the news I wouldn’t be allowed in – and I think that my friends and family were too.

I don’t know if God or somebody up there was looking out for us that day-but thankfully it passed without incident. However, I don’t expect it to be like that next time and I spent a few days trying to get over the stress of it and relax and be with my family again.

We spent 3 months together, in her Mom and stepfathers house, whilst we were tying up the legal arrangements surrounding her sons custody. There wasn’t a day that didn’t go by, when I didn’t hear the familiar tick tock above my head, reminding me that I only had X amount of days left before I would have to leave without Becs. Every happy occasion was tinged with sadness, even as I sat and watched my Fiancée and stepson decorate the Christmas tree with my in-laws I couldn’t help but think to myself ‘what if we’re not together next Christmas’. The thought of having to part with your loved one at the airport is hard enough; not knowing when you will see them again is too much to bear. Becs and I married in Boston in December. We were virtually surrounded by friends and family – who were logged on around the world, watching via streaming video and overjoyed to be a part of our day. One day, when we have a home established somewhere and our family is settled – we will have the big wedding like the one we always imagined. Of course, our marriage will be recognised in the UK as a civil partnership, so it will be recognised whenever we are there, but nothing at all will change for us when we are in the States; as far as the U.S. is concerned, we’re strangers despite the fact we share the same surname.

There are 36,000 other families being affected in this way and I wish more would come forward and share their story – our voices; our stories NEED to be heard. Instead we live in fear that sharing our stories means we are more likely to be stopped at immigration and turned away.

My family loves Becs and I know that Becs’ family love me in the same way; we are so lucky to be surrounded by support. We are not criminals; we work hard and are good people. Why should our family suffer in this way? We consider ourselves extremely lucky in that we were only apart for 4 months; but during this time, we were officially homeless and our life was in limbo while we were forced to live in separate countries. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is to account for this.  DOMA must be defeated, please help us and tens of thousands of other couples facing separation and exile by contacting your Senators and members of Congress and urging them to support the Respect for Marriage Act.

QUEERTY: Possible DOMA Repeal Stops Deportation of Monica Alcota

From the website Queerty.

NY Daily News: Gay Woman Won’t Be Deported, Couple Can Pursue Their Marriage Based Case

Read full article here.

Judge Terry Bain put a hold on her deportation order while the couple waits to see if the Defense of Marriage Act is overturned and their green card application goes through. “She could have said no,” [Cristina] Ojeda said. “But instead she gave us time. Little by little, we’re building up hope and more courage.” The couple will be back in court in December to give the judge an update on their case.
“I was very pleased that both the judge and the government attorney treated the issue with seriousness and respect,” said their lawyer, Lavi Soloway.
“I think it was a demonstration of respect for Monica and Cristina and their marriage. They were kind and generous about it.”

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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.