Engaged to be Married, Lesbian Couple Separated by the U.S.-Canadian Border Fights to be Reunited

AJSTACEY1I met and fell in love with Stacey online through a social network in January 2010. We talked off and on, but our conversations were brief at first as neither of us was ready to jump into a relationship. Over the next several months, we began spending more time talking to one another online and on the phone. Stacey lives in Winnipeg, Canada and I live in northwestern Arkansas.

By August of 2010 we realized that were crazy about one another and desperate to meet face to face. We held out as long as possible and then on October 17, 2010 she traveled to the United States for the first time to visit me; it was the beginning of many visits to come, but also the beginning of a long road that would include many emotionally trying moments when we were kept apart by border officials.

We came from vastly different worlds. With a fifteen year age difference we have had different experiences in life and our families in Arkansas and Manitoba are very different as well. My family is very conservative and holds strong religious beliefs and values, and are very much about “being in everyone’s business” though also very affectionate and friendly. Her family is more reserved, but also conservative in their own right. Stacey’s family comes from a traditional Catholic background and keep private lives fairly private.

But through all the differences, we found that we loved each other for the differences, and quickly realized that time apart was not what we wanted. She went back to Canada a month after coming to visit, only to fly back just after Christmas. We learned from one another. I am still trying to learn to be more spontaneous and she is learning to plan more. I guess that’s where our age difference comes in; but we never let our differences cause a rift, and for some reason, our differences only made us love one another more.

Over the next couple of years, she would come to Arkansas and I would go visit her in Canada. However, when she was in Arkansas she wanted to stay here with me. She really only wanted to go home to visit her family briefly. I took her to as many places as I could. Graceland, Beale Street, Tunica, San Antonio, Corpus Christi (she had never seen the ocean before). We traveled; we laughed, made memories, and fell more and more in love each day.

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This past June I proposed to Stacey, and she accepted. I was so nervous. I had planned out in my head exactly what I was going to do, but when the moment came everything I planned went out the window. Thank goodness she said yes to my bumbling proposal.

In June of 2012 she flew home again to see her family, as she had done some many times before. I joined her in Canada in late July for a week’s visit and we were to return back to Arkansas. But that day, July 31, 2012, was the start of our problems. She was questioned for about half-hour by the Customs and Border Patrol at the Winnipeg Airport. He let her come on through, but advised that the next time she came she needed to have proof she had strong ties to her home in Canada.

We flew back, but we were both very upset about what had happened. We had no idea that we should have been very grateful for being allowed through that time and that we should have sought legal help the first sign of trouble. Instead, we dug ourselves in deeper and ended up with a crisis that seems to defy any solution.

December 2012 came around and again Stacey’s visit with me came to an end. She left to spend Christmas with her family. Something inside begged her to stay, my family told her to stay, but she went. On January 3, 2013, when she attempted to return to the U.S., the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer who questioned her found her ineligible to enter as a visitor. He asked her how much money she had on her, and reviewed her documentation showing she lived in Winnipeg, but still he felt that the fact that she had a American fiancée was a sign that she intended to stay permanently (she volunteered that information to be honest). He offered (again, we realized later that we should have been very grateful for this) to withdraw her application for admission as a visitor and let her go home to try again another time in the future. Stacey misunderstood the situation and tried again almost immediately. This time she was barred from entering the U.S. for five years. The CBP thought she had misrepresented her intention (she told the truth that she was going to a casino in Iowa where we had booked accommodations for two days) because she had not told them that she was visiting me on this trip.

Trust me when I say, a lesson has been learned the hard way through tears and pain. The lesson we have learned is that being discriminated against as a lesbian couple; because of the Defense of Marriage Act, because I am unable to file a fiancée visa petition and bring the love of my life here the way the law provides for all other couples in our situation, forced us to make do with short visits. But we never broke any law; all we wanted was to spend time together.

We have cried every day knowing we are separated by a harsh, mean and unforgiving immigration law that just compounds the evil of DOMA. Knowing that we can only see one another three times a year for a couple of weeks at a time (when I can go up there). We are getting married in Winnipeg on March 21, 2013. It will be a joyous celebration but it will be bittersweet; my wife will be in exile, in a prison of sorts, and I will be among the thousands of lesbian and gay Americans whose life-partners are in the Spousal Diaspora.

If DOMA was struck down by the court, or Congress passed immigration reform that includes same-sex partners, we might have a chance; though the 5-year ban is now an added problem with its own set of inflexible rules.

Our love, unlike these laws, knows no border, and I will fight for us to be together. I don’t want to leave the United States, but I will if I am forced to do so, if it means the only way for us to be together.

I have never loved anyone in my life as much as I love Stacey. Even my mother, who is not keen on same-sex relationships, loves Stacey as her own daughter and has stated that she has never seen me happier.

Now, I am alone and taking care of the puppy, Precious, Stacey and I found last year. Precious misses her Mama. I miss her more than words can possibly describe. We need President Obama to open the process of Humanitarian Parole so that we can bring our partners here temporarily until DOMA is gone. We urge everyone reading this story to join The DOMA Project to end the separations that are tearing our lives apart.

Fighting DOMA and Preparing for the Post-DOMA Universe

The United States Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the United States

In this post I would like to address a concern that has been the subject of some discussion lately: that some same-sex binational couples seeking immigration benefits may experience difficulties in the post-DOMA universe if they reside in states that do not recognize their marriages. I believe this concern is fundamentally misguided, as I explain in detail below.

Beginning in July 2010 our law firm, Masliah & Soloway, launched a pro bono campaign called The DOMA Project (www.domaproject.org) to directly address the impact of DOMA on married gay and lesbian binational couples and to pave the way for a smooth transition to a post-DOMA universe.  As part of this project, we have filed over 60 “green card” petitions for same-sex couples over the past 30 months.  Thus far, about half of these petitions have been adjudicated by the USCIS;  some received denial letters based solely on DOMA Section 3 (regardless of whether they were domiciled in non-recognition states) and the remaining cases are being held for further review, often pursuant to a request for abeyance.   The petitions that were denied were immediately appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).  Responding to these appeals, the BIA has not upheld a single denial by USCIS based on DOMA Section 3. In fact, of those appeals that have been decided by the BIA, ten so far, all have been remanded to USCIS with orders instructing USCIS to determine only (1) whether the marriages in question were legal under the laws of the states in which they were solemnized and (2) whether the couple met their burden of proof (evidence of cohabitation, commingled finances, a joint life together as spouses) of a bona fide marital relationship for the purpose of qualifying the beneficiary as a “spouse.”  In each remand, the BIA clearly ordered the USCIS to confirm the validity of the marriages under the state law where the couple was married (and not where they reside), and asks for a determination, based on the bona fides of the marital relationship, that the foreign spouse would be eligible for a green card “notwithstanding DOMA Section 3.”

In none of these cases did the BIA or the USCIS ever assert that lack of recognition of the marriage in the state of domicile would prevent approval, absent DOMA Section 3. Nor did the fact that the couple resided in a non-recognition state (as was true for many, if not most, of the cases) impede our ability to request “abeyance” on the final decision, i.e. our request that the case be put on hold until Section 3 of DOMA is resolved by the Supreme Court. In fact, there is no evidence from this body of cases (i.e. no arguments by USCIS in their briefing, no references to state “non-recognition” laws in USCIS “DOMA denial” letters, and no language in the BIA remands) that suggests that the BIA or the USCIS will treat married same-sex couples differently depending on state of residence in the post-DOMA universe.

Creating a favorable post-DOMA context that ensures swift approval of green card petitions filed by qualified same-sex couples has been a continuing objective of The DOMA Project. We have received no feedback from any executive branch agency or from the Obama administration that suggests that binational couples can expect to face future complications arising from their domicile in states that do not recognize their marriages.  However, while we remain vigilant in our advocacy for a smooth transition to a post-DOMA universe, it should be noted that the Immigration & Nationality Act looks to the law of the jurisdiction in which the marriage was entered into to determine whether the marriage is valid.  The BIA explicitly affirmed this general rule in the BIA ruling in the Lovo-Lara case (involving a marriage in which one party was transgender), stating that “[t]he issue of validity of a marriage under State law is generally governed by the law of the place of celebration of the marriage.”

Historically, there have been very rare circumstances in which consideration of the law of the state of domicile has been taken into account for immigration purposes (involving prohibited marriages that were found to violate state criminal statutes). We do not expect the federal government to withhold immigration benefits from some same-sex couples based on the law of their state of residence at the time they file a green card petition after DOMA Section 3 has been struck down by the Supreme Court.

Although I feel strongly that we should not be distracted by speculation about hypothetical scenarios, the clarification and information offered here will hopefully serve to empower more members of our community to join the fight against DOMA in the court of public opinion.  Make no mistake. We must stay engaged. We must challenge DOMA every day by our conduct and our belief that we are equal and that no law can ever make us unequal. We must hold accountable all government agencies that deny recognition of our marriages, deny our humanity and tear apart our families. We must hold accountable all government officials that continue to enforce a law against us that is unconstitutional and immoral. We must hold the President to his word, and insist that he take action to protect our families by putting our green card petitions on hold until the Supreme Court has ruled on DOMA.  We must tell our stories every day and continue to build a movement for equality.  We are getting closer to the finish line, but that does not mean we can wait for equality to come to us.

Contact us at [email protected] to find out how you can get involved.

Lavi S. Soloway, co-founder, The DOMA Project
Masliah & Soloway, PC

VIDEO: From Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall to Asheville, North Carolina: Becky and Sanne Fight for the Right to be Together in this Country

President Obama, meet Becky and Sanne, and their 2-year-old daughter, Willow. Becky, who was born in this country, is a middle school teacher. Sanne comes from the Netherlands, the first country in the world to allow same-sex couples to wed.Sanne could have sponsored Becky as her spouse for the Dutch equivalent of a “green card.” Instead, they chose to live in America, where federal law refuses to recognize their marriage at all, including for immigration purposes.

 

President Obama, meet Becky and Sanne, and their 2-year-old daughter, Willow. Becky, who was born in this country, is a middle school teacher. Sanne comes from the Netherlands, the first country in the world to allow same-sex couples to wed. Sanne could have sponsored Becky as her spouse for the Dutch equivalent of a “green card.” Instead, they chose to live in America, where federal law refuses to recognize their marriage at all, including for immigration purposes. Fighting for their right to be here together as a family has become part of their daily lives.

Becky and Sanne settled down in Becky’s home state of North Carolina, where, last spring, a majority of voters passed an amendment banning same-sex marriage (and all other legal forms of same-sex unions). Gay and lesbian couples were already barred from marriage by law in North Carolina, but 61% of voters decided to enshrine discrimination in the state constitution anyway.

Perhaps you are wondering why Becky and Sanne chose to live where they do, considering that most North Carolinians do not see them as devoted and loving wives and mothers worthy of equal protection under the law.

For them, it was a no-brainer. First, they simply wanted to raise their daughter near the friends, family, and mountains they love. Plus, there was no way they were ever going to live overseas and wait for change to happen before following their hearts home. Rather, they were determined to be in the thick of the fight for equality, advocating for the kind of world any parent, gay or straight, would want to raise their child in – one characterized by respect and equal opportunity.

Becky & Sanne

Becky and Sanne are living their lives unapologetically and by example where change is needed most. They are literally on the front lines sharing their story with whomever will listen, making their case in the most influential court in the land: the court of public opinion. They are as strong and positive as people in their position could ever be. But they are struggling not knowing if they will be able to reap the benefits of their tireless work.

After all, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is still in full effect, ensuring that even though these upstanding and dutiful women are married, Becky cannot sponsor Sanne for a green card to live and work in the United States, as is possible for opposite-sex couples. Without a green card, Sanne has no legal status in the United States, despite having entered legally. Raising a family solely on Becky’s modest middle school teacher’s income is almost impossible. Both women are desperate to “root down” and plan their future, for themselves and for the well-being of their beautiful daughter. Instead, even the most basic decisions such as whether to splurge on a new kitchen table, are soured by the inevitable question: “what if?”

When you announced that your administration would no longer defend DOMA in federal court, Becky and Sanne hoped that you would take steps to ensure that they were recognized as deserving of the same rights and protections of all American families — especially the right to be secure in calling this country home. Like so many other binational same-sex couples, they know that you can implement interim solutions offering them at least a temporary reprieve from the anguish and uncertainty that haunts their every day. Now more than ever, executive branch action in defense of families like Becky and Sanne’s is an imperative.

As President, you have championed equality for gays and lesbians, including the right to have our marriages treated equally under the law by the federal government. In your recent inaugural address, you noted that “if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.” The love Becky and Sanne share is inviolable, strong, and precious. It is equal and it must be protected.

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Taking no action is inconsistent with the ideals fought for by brave citizens at Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall. If we are to carry on the fight for civil rights, every day counts. Becky and Sanne are doing their part. As President, you can ensure that their green card petition is not denied, but instead put on hold until either the Supreme Court strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act or Congress passes an immigration reform bill that includes the gay partner provision you put forward.

You are the President who spoke of change. These are your faithful warriors. Help them get to the promised land.

_______________________

The video posted here is the second in a series of short films titled Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines Against DOMA produced by The DOMA Project in collaboration with the DeVote Campaign.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and 12 Senate Colleagues: Stop Denying Green Card Petitions Filed By Lesbian and Gay Couples (UPDATED)

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U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

UPDATE:: See a copy of the letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Sec. Janet Napolitano attached below.

Since 2010 The DOMA Project has worked closely with a growing number of binational couples providing legal representation and filing green card and fiancé(e) petitions based on their marriages.  These couples have participated in a three-part advocacy campaign that targeted elected officials and the White House calling for (1) an abeyance policy (2) a moratorium on “DOMA” deportations (to extend further the protection offered under prosecutorial discretion) and (3) access to humanitarian parole to reunite exiled and separation couples.  Today we have reached another milestone in this effort.  For the first time since the Supreme Court announced that it will decide the fate of Section 3 of DOMA in its 2012-2013 term, a group of U.S. Senators have called on the administration to hold green card petitions in abeyance. We are especially thankful to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and her staff with whom we have worked closely for the past two years with a group of lesbian and gay binational couples in New York state.  (See text of the letter below.)

DOMA Project co-founder Lavi Soloway noted, “The administration should stop denying these green card petitions, and allow them to remain pending until the Supreme Court rules on Section 3 of DOMA. This will have the immediate effect of protecting our families by allowing foreign spouses of lesbian and gay Americans to remain in the United States and potentially provide eligibility for employment authorization.  An unconstitutional law, only months away from final judicial resolution by the Supreme Court, should not be allowed to tear apart our families.”

The DOMA Project was launched by the law firm of Masliah & Soloway in July 2010 to pressure the administration to develop policies that would mitigate the discriminatory impact of DOMA in relation to lesbian and gay binational couples. In March 2011, we stepped up our call for an abeyance policy and began working with elected officials in the House and Senate to urge the administration to stop denying green card petitions filed by same-sex couples.   We continue to file green card petitions for married lesbian and gay binational couples in certain circumstances.

The Senators have asked the Obama administration to do the following:

1) Stop denying green card petitions based on Section 3 of DOMA that are otherwise approvable;
2) Put all green card petitions that would otherwise be denied solely because of DOMA on hold until the Supreme Court rules this June; and
3) Implement a moratorium on all deportations involving same-sex binational couples.

As we have argued repeatedly to the administration, none of these remedies contradicts the continued enforcement of DOMA. While DOMA is the law of the land and prevents approval of our green card petitions, there is no need to deny them with the Supreme Court ruling expected in five months. Holding cases in abeyance is a practice that has been used in the past when the law is in a state of flux and a resolution is on the horizon.

We urge all who are reading this to sign our petition to President Obama demanding that all pending green card cases filed by same-sex couples be held in abeyance. Click here to read the text of the petition.

In 2011 and 2012, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) wrote two similar letters to the Attorney General with 12 and 16 signatories, respectively; however, those letters pre-dated the Supreme Court’s announcement that it would decide the fate of DOMA this year.

GILLIBRAND, SENATE COLLEAGUES URGE FEDS TO DELAY JUDGMENT ON SAME-SEX COUPLES’ GREEN CARD CASES, HALT DEPORTATION ORDERS UNTIL SUPREME COURT RULES ON DOMA

First and Second Circuit Federal Appeals Courts Have Already Deemed DOMA Unconstitutional, Senators Urge Obama Administration to Temporarily Delay Decisions on Immigration Cases Involving LGBT Couples Until Constitutionality of DOMA Law Is Clarified by the High Court

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), an original co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act to repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), was joined today by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Al Franken (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Patty Murray (D-WA) in urging Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to temporarily put on hold immigration cases involving permanent resident status and deportation orders regarding same-sex foreign-born spouses of LGBT couples until the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of DOMA later this year. Currently, federal immigration benefits do not extend to same-sex couples under DOMA, which places undue hardship on these families while they wait for DOMA cases to be ruled upon by the high court. Already, first and second circuit federal appeals courts have deemed DOMA unconstitutional, as has the Obama administration, whose policy is to no longer prosecute those cases.

“The Supreme Court will soon have its voice heard on this discriminatory policy that has already been deemed unconstitutional by two federal courts,” said Senator Gillibrand. “In light of those earlier decisions, we must lift the hardship for LGBT families who live in fear of separation based on this antiquated law until the Supreme Court rules. Regardless of the Court’s ultimate decision, it is well past time for Congress to recognize the marriages of all loving and committed couples and finally put the discriminatory DOMA policy into the dustbin of history.”

The Senators wrote in a letter to Attorney General Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, “We urge DHS to hold marriage-based immigration petitions in abeyance until the Supreme Court issues its ruling on same-sex marriage. Holding these cases in abeyance for a few months will prevent hardship to LGBT immigrant families. We also call upon the Department of Justice to institute a moratorium on orders of removal issued by the immigration courts to married foreign nationals who would be otherwise eligible to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident but for DOMA. By taking these interim steps, vulnerable families affected by DOMA can remain together until the Supreme Court issues its decision.”

DOMA currently prohibits federal immigration benefits for binational LGBT couples, including petitioning on behalf of a foreign-born spouse for a permanent resident visa. As a result, officials have consistently denied same-sex couples’ applications, leaving many in immigration limbo without legal status, in fear of separation from their loved ones and potential deportation.

To ensure that foreign-born LGBT spouses would be able to remain with their families in the U.S. and be allowed to work and freely travel during the time leading up to the Supreme Court verdict, the Senators urged the Homeland Security Department to “hold in abeyance” binational LGBT couples’ immigration petitions and applications and called on the Justice Department to issue a moratorium for deportation cases involving binational LGBT couples who would be eligible for U.S. residency, if not for DOMA.

 

The letter from Sen. Gillibrand and her colleagues regarding abeyance for same-sex binational couples

The letter from Sen. Gillibrand and her colleagues regarding abeyance for same-sex binational couples

Full text of the Senators’ letter is below:

Dear Mr. Attorney General and Madam Secretary:

We continue to applaud the President for his decision not to defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (‘DOMA’) in federal court. We also applaud the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for including “long-term same-sex partners” under the Administration’s policy that suspends deportations of some immigrants who pose no security risk. These developments are steps in the right direction, but DOMA is still the law of the land and continues to discriminate against a class of Americans.

Following the 2012 election, there are now nine states and the District of Columbia recognizing same-sex marriage with several other states granting similar rights. However with DOMA as law, we are creating a tier of second-class families in these States. DOMA prevents same-sex immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens from successfully applying for permanent resident visas. Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court has granted certiorari in Windsor v. U.S. and will determine the constitutionality of DOMA in the next term; by June we will know whether or not applications for lawful permanent residence for lesbian and gay spouses will ultimately be approvable.

Given the historic nature of Windsor v. U.S., we urge DHS to hold marriage-based immigration petitions in abeyance until the Supreme Court issues its ruling on same-sex marriage. Holding these cases in abeyance for a few months will prevent hardship to LGBT immigrant families. We also call upon the Department of Justice to institute a moratorium on orders of removal issued by the immigration courts to married foreign nationals who would be otherwise eligible to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident but for DOMA. By taking these interim steps, vulnerable families affected by DOMA can remain together until the Supreme Court issues its decision.

Preserving family unity is a fundamental American value and is the cornerstone of our nation’s immigration law. Thank you for your decision not to defend the constitutionality of a law that hurts so many families and for your consideration of this request.

The DOMA Project Continues Press for Abeyance: Cathy and Catriona Attend Green Card Interview in Denver

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Arriving at USCIS Denver Field Office

Last week The DOMA Project traveled to Denver, Colorado to join Cathy and Catriona, one of our many participant binational couples, as they attended a green card interview at their local USCIS office. Parents of three beautiful children, they were running out of options last year when Cathy’s H-1B visa petition was denied. They decided to join The DOMA Project, file a green card petition based on their marriage and assert their right to be treated equally under the law. As a result of that filing, Cathy received an employment authorization card and the couple was scheduled for an interview. The DOMA Project has attended green card interviews with married lesbian and gay binational couples at a variety of local USCIS offices around the country over the past two years. To the best of our knowledge, Cathy and Catriona were the first same-sex couple to be interviewed in Denver. After their green card interview, Cathy and Catriona visited their Congressman Jared Polis at his Boulder office and spoke with him and his staff about the need for USCIS to institute an “abeyance” policy that would ensure that green card petitions filed by lesbian and gay couples would be put on hold until the Supreme Court rules on DOMA in June.

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Catriona and Cathy with DOMA Project co-founder, attorney Lavi Soloway, and Congressman Jared Polis in Boulder, Colorado

In Colorado we continued our collaboration with Brynn Gelbard and The Devote Campaign, shooting another short film for our series, “Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines in the Fight Against DOMA.”  We spent a wonderful afternoon with Cathy, Catriona and their children exploring Boulder, Colorado.  Their story begins when they met while mountain climbing in the Himalayas in 2006.  They were both originally from small towns in Ireland that were just a few miles apart. Catriona is a naturalized U.S. citizen who came to the United States more than 30 years ago. Cathy, who was working as a nurse in Dublin, began traveling back and forth between Ireland and the United States until she obtained a temporary visa that allowed her to work as a nurse.  Within a few years they had adopted a son from Guatemala and two daughters from Haiti.  With all five members of the family born outside the United States, Cathy and Catriona represent the uniquely American experience of immigration: a convergence of individuals whose paths to this country differed greatly, but who have formed one solid, loving, and beautiful family.

Petition

And now they must fight to keep their family together.

Please sign The DOMA Project petition to President Obama (click here) urging the administration to stop denying green card petitions filed by same-sex binational couples and to hold them in abeyance until the Supreme Court rules on DOMA.

Cathy describes the experience of attending the interview with their attorney, Lavi Soloway, where the couple presented a voluminous file of supporting evidence proving that she and Cathy have a bona fide marital relationship:

“The days building up to the green card interview were nerve-wracking, filled with “what if’s.” We felt very anxious about the prospect of being rejected, refused, worse still, facing the very remote possibility of a deportation proceeding. We had no idea how we would be received or treated by the officer. We hoped for the best, but we prepared every category of evidence knowing that we might face a hostile officer. We knew that whatever happened, DOMA was our biggest obstacle. Despite our worries our conviction never wavered: we had every right to be there and to demand to be treated fairly and with respect. Furthermore, we had every right to make a request that our case be held in abeyance with the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA little more than five months away.

Cathy Catriona and the kids 625

“We had an early start. With our champions, Lavi and Brynn, we set off before dawn for the USCIS Office in Centennial Colorado.

I couldn’t relax knowing that we were probably the first same-sex couple to be interviewed in Colorado in connection with a marriage-based green card petition. Our family’s future, like many LGBT families across the United States, depended on this process.

We proceeded to the waiting area and within a short period my name was called. I was a bundle of nerves, but reassured myself that we were doing the right thing. We were presenting an abundance of evidence proving we were a married couple with a family. We only had the discriminatory and unconstitutional law, DOMA, standing between us and our future staying together in the United States.

The interview itself was great. The interviewing officer was kind, respectful, courteous, and very understanding. All evidence was accepted and our file is now being held for further review.

We left on a high note, encouraged that we had not been summarily knocked down, or turned away with our hopes and dreams in shatters. Most importantly, we had not been denied. We left hopeful and optimistic as to the future. We are fully aware that the ultimate goal, approval of our green card petition cannot come until DOMA is gone, we believe it is an enormously important step for USCIS to be meeting with us and interviewing us about our marriage, in short treating us like all other married couples.”

Catriona notes that she was happily surprised that her worst expectations did not transpire:

“I must admit that I really expected a cold, officious reception with a high probability that we might not get to even sit down with an officer before being shown the exit door with a denial. I suppose I braced myself to be treated like an oddity that had no place in a process that allows only heterosexual couples to be successful. Boy was I wrong! The USCIS Officer was extremely gracious and welcoming and followed the interview process in a professional and courteous manner, kindly letting us know that, although we had more than enough evidence of a valid marriage, she informed us that she could not yet approve our petition because of the law. Of course we understood that going into the process, but in her respectful treatment of our case and her careful review of our evidence validated our effort to be treated equally. We understood that day that we were fighting for our family and for all other lesbian and gay binational couples. We left feeling that we had won another incremental victory in this civil rights struggle. It was empowering to meet with an officer and to make our case, and we realized more than ever that we were indeed holding the government accountable and pressing USCIS to do better than simply issue denials based on DOMA. This was a huge step forward for us. It really was a positive experience. We left the USCIS office a lot lighter in step with a lot more hope and optimism than before. We believe strongly that we must do our part to make change happen so that our three children grow up in a world in which all families are valued and respected. Last week we took a step in that direction.”

Cathy Catriona on Set 625

“Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines Against DOMA”

After 12 Years, Ari and Nir Fight for a Future Together, File Green Card Petition Based on Their Marriage

Nir and Ari in 2008

I am an American citizen. I was born in this country and mostly raised in Israel. I think of myself as a hybrid, an IsrAmerican. My parents, family and friends live in Israel, but the US is my origin and New York City my life long inspiration, a place I have always considered home.
I spent many of my formative years in Israel. It’s where I went to grade school, high school, and eventually the army, where I fulfilled mandatory military service from the of age 18 to 21. The Israeli army, of all places, is where I became socially open about being gay. I was a very proactive gay rights enthusiast during my service, making a sincere effort to educate my commanders and colleagues of my views about what being gay is and what is is not. The Israeli Defense Force is comprised of almost all of the secular population and some of the religious population of Israel and it allows — as I was surprised to discover — a lot of room for individuality. At least after you finish basic training.

At their wedding, 2009

Soon after finishing my three years of service, I met Nir at a friend’s party held at a friend’s house. Nir, then still in the closet, saw the DJ stand that I had made for myself at the party and he was drawn to see what music I had brought to play. It wasn’t long before I started flirting with him and that night was my last as a single man. Two weeks later, on July 1st, 2000, we made it official to our friends, who needed no announcement. Neither of us had any idea where life would lead us at this point, but over the next eight years we would build a foundation of trust, honesty, comfort, safety, and unending love. As we were building this foundation, I confided in Nir that it was hard for me to imagine living in Israel for the long haul.

In 2008, after graduating from Tel Aviv University with a degree in opera performance and classical conducting, I met a voice teacher who was visiting Israel. He invited me to join the opera program he was managing in Brooklyn as a graduate student. I was unable to refuse. The program began three weeks later.

Nir and I successfully sustained a long distance relationship between August 2008 and August 2010. We each made trans-Atlantic trips two to three times a year, skyped and talked on the phone every day at length (which I personally think is the key to surviving long distance), and stretched out our vacation time from work just a bit more than our bosses wanted. After so many years together, it became clearer than ever that Nir was the person I wanted to grow old with and vice versa. On Nir’s second visit to New York, in the spring of 2009, I asked him to marry me and he said yes. We got married (the filling out papers part) in the Town Hall of Greenwich, Connecticut, and got actually married (the teary family and friends part) in the summer, in my mother’s back yard, in Israel.
After two years of maintaining our relationship over the ocean, we desperately needed to live together again. Nir was lucky enough to find a temporary position with the Israeli consulate in New York in the fall of 2010, which made it easy for him to move here, but the position did not become permanent. He applied for a change of status to a student visa which does not allow him to work.

New York is our home. It’s not easy living here on one paycheck, it sucks not being able to visit friends and family, but there has never before been a time in which we loved our lives as much as we do now.

We are in our mid 30s. Thoughts of starting a family are always on the horizon of our plans, just beyond reach. How can we think of creating a stable environment for a new person when our own stability has been on hold for years?

In Romania, 2005

And so we decided to fight — not wait — for the wheels of justice to turn. After the right to marry came to New York state, we petitioned for a marriage-based visa. On December 7, the momentous day that the Supreme Court made public its decision to take on the Windsor challenge to the so called Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA), challenging the constitutionality of a marriage being recognized by New York state but not the federal government, Nir and I received a Notice of Decision in the mail. We were denied because, “Your spouse is not a person of the opposite sex. Therefore, under the DOMA your petition must be denied. We do not consider it necessary to determine whether your marriage is lawful under state law, or whether the beneficiary would be a ‘spouse’ under the INA absent the DOMA…”

We are appealing this decision in our fight for a better and more just future. We urge the Obama administration to put our case on hold, and make a final decision only when the Supreme Court has finished its work. Offensive denial letters like the one we received have no place in America in 2012. This should end now.

I’m not very good at complaining. My friends will vouch for this. I also know how lucky Nir and I are. We have a roof over our heads, food on our table, and friends and family that come to us when we don’t come to them. Most of all, we have each other both in essence of spirit and in physical presence – something many binational same sex couples are not fortunate enough to be able to say. I remain hopeful that “marriage inequality” will not uproot my sense of home and force me to test my optimism in exile. All this said, as long as my government doesn’t treat me as an equal citizen, I have no choice but to live with the constant option of leaving my home. This is something that no American should ever be forced to do.

 We joined The DOMA Project because we believe it is important to speak out. We encourage all who are reading this to become part of this effort. There is no reason to wait, there is no one else who will do this work. This is our time.

Binational Lesbian Couple in New Mexico Fight for the Right to be Together

I had been single for a while and began to feel that i wanted to “step out” again.  I called a colleague and asked her to include me in her socials so i could meet people.  Her response? “Go on the internet.  Lots of people are meeting each other that way these days.”  I was very skeptical at first but finally I decided to give it a try.

I found an international lesbian dating site called the “Pink Sofa” and joined up.  The second day I was on it I saw Deborah’s picture. “Yipes!” I said to myself.  Then I read her bio.  Then I said to myself “this woman is the woman for me!”

I messaged her saying: “All the interesting women are in Australia.”  She replied: “No, they aren’t.  Otherwise I wouldn’t be single, would I?”

JB

Thus began our conversations.  First by e-mail, then by the more immediate instant messaging, and finally, by means of a terrific innovation: video conferencing.  We bridged a nearly 10,000 mile gap with this technology, and we got along better and better. I invited Deborah to visit me in New Mexico, and I was so excited when she told me that she could make the trip that fall.  She arrived at the airport in Albuquerque on Oct. 13, 2007 at 8:30 p.m. (Yes, I remember it, exactly!) and she stayed with me for a month.  In many ways, we were peas in a pod.  We were both musicians – she in the popular mode, me a classical musician.  We had both been educated by the same order of nuns.  We were both feminists.  And the list went on. At the end of the month, it was clear this was a love match.  When she went home to Australia, we were both distraught.

In my naiveté, I thought she could simply come over here and be with me.  I had no idea that I could not fill out a form and make that happen.  I certainly didn’t know much about our immigration laws, but it never occurred to me that I would be treated any differently than any other American who had fallen in love with someone from another country.  You see, I had never felt actual discrimination as a gay person.  Sure, I ran into some narrow-minded people from time to time.  My attitude was – if you don’t like it – that’s your problem.  I had worked in jobs where what you could do was infinitely more important than who you were.  As I investigated our options for being together in this country, I came smack up against a bigotry and hatred I had managed to remain ignorant of all my life.  “You’ve got to be kidding!”  I thought.  But there was no kidding around going on here.  It was well neigh impossible for us to just “be together” here – in the land of the free.

Deborah had spent her youth writing and playing music.  She had not gone to college.  A student visa was the only possible visa for her.  I asked her if she would want to get a bachelor’s degree.  “Why not?” she said.

Our first year together was taken up traveling back and forth to Australia and dealing with being admitted to college here and applying for an F-1 visa.  It was very nerve-wracking and very expensive.  We should not have needed to do this, of course. I knew it. But all we wanted was to be able to be together. Of course, for many couples in our situation even a student visa would be completely impossible. We stretched every penny to make it work.

She began college in August, 2008.  Deborah is a very well, self-educated and traveled woman in her 50s.  It has been very challenging for her to be in classes with youngsters.  And many of her courses she hates and would never take if it weren’t for the need for this visa. Deborah has basically given up the middle years of her 50′s doing something she would otherwise never do so we can be together.  Still, she has been a trooper.  She is an A+ student and was awarded the only scholarship given to an international undergraduate at the University of New Mexico.

Having come face to face with the situation of gay people in this country, I applied as soon as I could for a residency visa in Australia.  In October of 2011, I was awarded permanent residency in Australia.  We knew we were playing for time in this country.  If that time runs out, we must move to Australia.  If I am forced to leave America, it will be only because of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act. I am not going down without a fight. This is, after all, my country, too.

So, what has this been like?  Coming face to face with hatred and bigotry and living with  the effects of this anti-gay law every day? Living a life you would not otherwise choose?  It has been an emotional and financial disaster.  Financially, this situation uses up all “discretionary” funds that I earn.  I am glad to be able to pay for it, but it means less money for our future.  Emotionally?  Just imagine what it is like to live every day in a situation you would never choose wondering if and when it might end and how it will end.  Imagine giving up years in your 50s to jump through hoops put in front of you by ignorant, hateful, bigots who passed a law claiming to defend “marriage” while denying us the ability to be secure as as couple.  Imagine, pushing 70 years old, as I am, and looking at having to make a new life in another country.  This is not just cruel. It is an outrage. Every day that DOMA is allowed to deplete my savings and steal years from me that I will never get back, I am angry. Every day that the President affirms his support for my equality, but does nothing to help us avoid spending tens of thousands of dollars and trapping Deborah in school, I am angry. I know there is a lot I can do to change this situation and I am starting by sharing my story here.  I want to be able to sponsor the love of my life for a green card.

With everything against us, we just become more obdurate.  We will not be separated.  We plan to go to New York – my home town – at Christmas time and get married.  We will then file a green card petition and fight DOMA.  We are going to dig in our heels and fight for what is right. We know we have the power to make change happen.

On Their First Wedding Anniversary, Daniel and James Fight for a Green Card and Challenge DOMA

Daniel and James on their wedding day

My first name is Carlos, but most people know me by my middle name, Daniel. I was born in a small town in Minas Gerais state, Brazil. I’d always dreamed of living in a cosmopolitan place, so when I was 21, I moved to São Paulo, where I finished college and started working as a foreign-language instructor. After working as an educator for 15 years, I thought it would be a good idea to spend some time abroad. I arrived in New York in March 2007.

In Brazil, family ties are paramount. I was raised by very devoted, caring, and loving parents, who will soon be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, and they instilled those values of love and devotion in me from an early age. When I was growing up, my parents taught me that those values are a gift I would one day share with my own family. Now that time has come.

James Oseland and I first met on a Sunday near Times Square in July 2007. I had been in the United States for four months then. I was here on a tourist visa, doing what tourists do, sightseeing around Manhattan. It was about 3 p.m., and I was getting ready to head back to the apartment where I was staying in New Jersey. James had just left the subway and was on his way to Koreatown, where his office is located. I didn’t know this until later, but he had recently become the editor-in-chief of Saveur, the award-winning culinary magazine. We struck up a conversation. He said he was going to the office to do some catching up. It was a hot and beautiful summer day. He was wearing a white T-shirt, black shorts, white socks, and sneakers. He was carrying a heavy black shoulder bag. He looked so handsome, so young and proud in that outfit, so confident, and so comfortable in his own skin that I simply could not take my eyes off of him. We talked a little more, and then exchanged e-mail addresses and phone numbers. We said good-bye, and as I watched him walk away, a thought came to my mind: I want to get to know this guy better.

He called me on the Thursday night following our first meeting. We set a date for Sunday, and he gave me his address. He was living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, at that time, so I took the L train, and suddenly there I was in front of his building, very nervous, but very excited at the same time. We spent the afternoon and the early evening together. We talked for hours. I felt like I could talk to him about anything. I met his two beloved cats, Pete and Sam. Pete was friendly, but very possessive of James. Sam was shy and reserved, but the sweetest cat I have ever seen. On that very first day at James’s apartment, I felt totally at home. It was hard to leave at the end of the evening.

We started seeing each other on weekends after that. We would go hiking in the Catskills, take long walks on the beach, jog on the Williamsburg Bridge, stroll around Central Park, or grab a bite at a restaurant. The first one we went to together was a small Taiwanese restaurant in Chinatown. We had walked over the bridge from his place and had a simple, delicious lunch there.

It all seemed a dream come true: meeting such a great guy, being in New York City, a place I’d quickly grown to love as much as São Paulo. I was having the time of my life. I was able to renew and extend my tourist visa until the end of 2008. By then, James, Sam, and Pete were already family to me, and I knew I would love them with all my heart until the day I die.

JD NYC CLERK OFFICE MARRIAGE625

With my visa about to expire, we started a pilgrimage from one immigration lawyer to another, asking for advice on how to handle this absurd situation in the best possible way. Each time we saw a lawyer, my heart would sink lower. They all said the same thing: under United States immigration law, you do not have a case. James, in spite of being an American citizen, could not sponsor me to live legally in America with him mostly due to DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions.

To avoid becoming an illegal resident, I would have to go back to São Paulo. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t leave this special man to whom I wanted to dedicate my life and love. Neither of us could picture ourselves living far away from each other, in different worlds, thousands of miles apart. So, I decided to overstay my visa. This meant I had to leave my job as an instructor, and I had to sublet the apartment I’d recently bought in São Paulo. I was giving up the chance to see my friends and family back home, and for who knows how long?

At first, I felt naked and empty, and on more than one occasion James brought up the idea of us moving to Brazil, where I’d be able to sponsor him to stay in the country legally as my spouse. The government there was still gearing up for passage of a same-sex marriage law, but at least we’d be able to file for a same-sex civil union, which would allow James to gain residency. All the paperwork would take no longer than a month. It would be so easy.

But I simply could not ask James to pack his bags. He had a promising career; he was excited about his job and his life. Who knows how things would have worked out professionally for him in South America? My decision to stay was about more than James’s career, though. We believed we should have the right, as a loving couple, to choose where we want to live, and where to build a family. We couldn’t accept the idea of just running away.

After my visa expired, I stopped traveling by plane, even inside the United States, and sometimes we even avoided car trips, fearful of getting stopped and being asked to present ID.  Meanwhile, James’s job was taking him all over the country and the world, sometimes for weeks on end; he even started appearing as a judge on a Bravo TV show called Top Chef Masters a few years ago, which means he sometimes goes away for longer than a few weeks. He always has to travel alone.

In 2010 James’s mother had a heart attack and had to undergo open-heart surgery. He took the first plane to California, where she lived. He stayed with her for three agonizing weeks before she died. He was devastated, and I couldn’t be there to comfort him in that critical moment of his life. We felt we could not risk that getting on a transcontinental flight might somehow lead to my deportation. A year or so later, my beloved grandmother passed away. I could not fly to Brazil to attend her funeral, knowing I would not be allowed to reenter the U.S. I was filled with sadness not to be able to mourn my grandmother’s death with my family.

Meanwhile, James and I went on with our lives. In November 2010, we moved to our own apartment in Manhattan. And on a bright, sunny day in December 2011, we got married. It was a small but beautiful ceremony at City Hall. Afterwards, James and I, along with a group of friends, had a magnificent dinner at that same little Taiwanese restaurant in Chinatown where the two of us had had our first meal out together four and a half years before.

James wrote about our wedding in Saveur and in the Huffington Post. It was the most memorable day of my life.

In 2012, we took the next step: James applied to sponsor me for a “green card” as his spouse. Due to DOMA, the application was denied. We immediately appealed that denial and we will continue to fight for the right to be together. We won’t back down until we win.

DJTSHIRTS625

Celebrating at the Chinese restaurant where they had their first meal out together four and half years before

Without a green card, I cannot get a social security number or a work permit. I cannot get a regular job and help my husband pay the mortgage on our apartment, or even help pay day-to-day expenses. I was forced to stay in the United States without legal status because of DOMA. Living with the threat of deportation hanging over my head is not easy for us, either. Sometimes it makes me very angry, and it depresses both of us, putting great strains our relationship, and on James’s already incredibly demanding work life. He is often stressed out, and I worry constantly about his physical, mental, and emotional health. It’s hard for us to make plans for the future. I want to go back to school and get a master’s degree; I want to get a job and have a fulfilling career; I want to take trips with James; I want to take him to visit my family. But DOMA has denied us all these aspects of normal life, and that saddens my soul. Sometimes I think we’re reaching the breaking point.

DOMA dictates that our family is not to be recognized, that our family is unworthy of the same rights that different-sex couples enjoy. And yet, James pays the same taxes as everybody else. It is simply not right. So, lately I’ve become obsessed with immigration law, civil rights, and marriage equality, reading every article on the subjects I can find. Sometimes it’s all I can think about. I keep asking myself: What purpose can possibly be served by a law that prohibits two people in love from living their lives freely and to the fullest?

I do know one thing for sure: I won’t rest until James and I are no longer treated as second-class citizens by the U.S. government. I won’t rest until I’m able to focus on building a future with my beloved husband without fear of deportation. I won’t rest until DOMA becomes history. No matter how long it takes, no matter how many tears, no matter how many sleepless nights, we will never give up fighting for our rights. And we will never give up fighting to preserve and nurture the love we feel for each other. At the end of the day, that’s what really matters.

Photos by Landon Nordeman

Time to Get Personal — Announcing the Launch of Our Series of Short Films, “Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines Against DOMA”

Photo by Kaliisa Conlon

When Lavi Soloway, co-founder of The DOMA Project, came to the United States in 1989 as a foreign student from Canada, he could never have imagined that one of his greatest challenges would also present him with a chance to bring about positive change in this country.

As one half of a binational couple and a newly-admitted lawyer with an expiring visa, he went looking for help with his own immigration status. What he found was common cause with activists and other lesbian and gay couples. This empowered him to join the broader LGBT movement for social justice and launch a national grass-roots campaign for immigration equality. Over time, strategies evolved, but he remained absolutely convinced that the greatest tool for achieving victory was the personal stories of binational couples struggling to be together in this country.

Los Angeles based filmmaker, Brynn Gelbard, first met her Irish-born partner, Lisa, eleven years ago in San Francisco. By then, Lisa had already won a green card in the lottery. Over the years, they came to know other couples who weren’t so lucky, which inspired Brynn to help.

Through her project, The DeVote Campaign, she has been creating videos of people from all walks of life discussing what inspired them to fight for LGBT equality. For so long, binational couples were afraid that if they publically took a stand, they risked being torn apart. As the Obama administration introduced new family-friendly deportation policies, binational couples seized the moment and began speaking out more forcefully than ever before about the hardships they endure. Increasingly, their target was the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law that denies recognition of their marriages for all purposes including immigration and thus remains the sole obstacle to attaining a green card and a secure future for their families. Brynn jumped at the chance to record their stories and publish them online as a tool for inciting dialogue and change.

When Lavi and Brynn met in 2011, their decision to collaborate was rooted in the mutual conviction that exposing a mass audience to the unimaginable, real-life implications of this unjust law——the excruciating choices, crippling uncertainty and gut-wrenching sacrifices——was essential to mobilizing widespread, public demand for action.

On a shoe-string budget, Lavi and Brynn have traveled from Boston to Miami Beach, from Charlotte to San Francisco, collecting hundreds of hours of video of married lesbian and gay couples who are fully engaged in the fight against DOMA. These are voices of spouses who are assuming their own equality, who do not need a court or a Congress to tell them that their marriages are deserving of the same respect and, most importantly, the same protection under the law.

Photo by Joanna Chau

The result is “Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines Against DOMA,” a series of short films featuring these brave couples. The first to be released introduces Daniel and Yohandel, two young men who met and fell in love in Miami and soon found themselves searching for a way to stay together in the U.S. Yohandel contends with the profound disconnect between the ideal of freedom that prompted his parents to leave Cuba and the experience of second-class citizenship that he struggles with as a gay American. As Daniel and Yohandel share their devotion to each other and their determination to overcome the inhumane consequences of DOMA, we are left asking ourselves how such a cruel law could exist in a country that promises “liberty and justice for all.”

 

 

VICTORY! Long Nightmare Ends for Married Lesbian Couple in Denver, ICE Stops DOMA Deportation

Sujey and Violeta on their wedding day in Iowa on November 15, 2010

November was a month of celebrations for Violeta and Sujey Pando, a married lesbian couple living in Denver who have been inseparable since their first date. The month began with the six anniversary of that first date.  Then, a week later, on November 10 they celebrated the second anniversary of their wedding, which had taken place in Iowa. As Violeta wrote in their original post when the joined The DOMA Project in August 2011:

“I love Sujey with all my heart. I knew when we started dating that I had found true love for the first time in my life. I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. We were engaged for two years, our plans for our wedding were still taking place at the time Sujey was picked up by immigration. Even though we knew that the federal government doesn’t recognize the marriages of same-sex couples, we knew just as strongly that we wanted to marry and move forward with our lives together as a family. As an engagement promise, we got tattoos with each other’s names. We planned for two years to get married in one of the states where marriage was legal for a same-sex couples. Finally the day came. Sujey and I married November 15, 2010 in Iowa. It was the happiest day of our lives.”

Violeta is a American citizen, born and raised in Denver, where she studied Criminal Justice and works as a Correctional Case Manager. By the time that they met, Sujey had already been in the U.S. for more than 10 years. During their long two-year engagement while they planned and prepared for their wedding Sujey was picked up by Immigration & Customs Enforcement during a routine traffic stop and was placed into deportation proceedings.  Sujey had fled Mexico as a teenager where she had been abused and rejected by her family, and struggled to survive in the U.S.

Violeta and Sujey knew they faced an uphill battle to remain together in this country, but they were ready to challenge the system to do better. Violeta filed an application for relief based on the hardship deportation would cause to her as her spouse and demanded to be legally recognized as a spouse for immigration purposes.

When Violeta and Sujey bravely attended an Immigration Court proceeding in August 2011, only one other same-sex couple (also DOMA Project participants) had ever been successful at administratively closing deportation proceedings on the basis of their marriage. Furthermore, they were in the Denver District where Immigration & Customs Enforcement was known to be particularly unsympathetic to requests for discretion.  Still, with the media surrounding them and eager to tell their story, the couple pressed forward with word of a new deportation policy from the administration.  To their great relief, the presiding Immigration Judge determined that the case should be postponed, to a date in 2012 to determine the status of the law regarding their marriage-based application for relief. Later it was re-calendared to 2014, along with most of pending cases in Denver as that city was selected in December 2011 for pilot program to test the new prosecutorial discretion guidelines.

We filed a massive submission for Sujey requesting exercise of prosecutorial discretion for her as the spouse of a U.S. citizen.  We urged the government prosecutors to agree to stop the deportation proceedings. As the pilot program came and went, Violeta and Sujey were unsure what had become of their request. Meanwhile, an inter-departmental working group had been formed by the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice to review all cases nationwide.  The working group included one individual responsible for monitoring any LGBT-related cases.  For a year, Violeta and Sujey waited anxiously not knowing whether their request would be rejected. Their whole future would depend on whether the government decided to exercise discretion favorably in their case.  While they were waiting, Sujey became eligible for and obtained employment authorization, but still the deportation proceedings were not closed.  

Finally, at the end of November, their prayers were answered.  For the first time in more than 18 years after she first escaped horrific abuse in Mexico, Sujey Pando was officially allowed to remain.  With various applications for relief pending she continues to be eligible for employment authorization. Both women remain active in The DOMA Project and continue the fight to organize and empower others to raise awareness of the impact of DOMA on binational lesbian and gay couples.

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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.