COMING HOME! First Green Card Petition Approved for Gay Couple in DOMA Exile

Another first in the post-DOMA reality for binational couples: married, gay couple exiled in Canada becomes first to receive approval of green card petition that had been previously denied because of DOMA. Obama administration made good on the last week’s promise to review all green card petitions that had been denied based on DOMA. March 2011 denial of the green card petition filed by a gay married couple currently in exile has been reversed by the government!

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Tom and Emilio met in 2001 in New York City. A year earlier, like so many other gay men from his country, Emilio had left Venezuela in search of a better life in the U.S. As Tom and Emilio fell in love and set out to plan a future together as a couple, they abruptly ran into the cold, hard brick wall reality of anti-gay discrimination in U.S. immigration law.

For over a decade they have been deprived of a basic right that most families take for granted. Tom and Emilio have been denied the right to live together in this country. They have been denied the opportunity to build a life together with the support of Tom’s supportive and loving extended family in New Jersey.

Although Tom is an American citizen, he and his husband, Emilio, have been forced to start a new life in Canada far from Tom’s family in New Jersey. And because of Emilio was deprived of the usual path to lawful status, sponsorship by his American spouse, he was deported from the United States. That deportation meant that Tom and Emilio could not return for at least 10 years.

However, today’s approval of a green card petition that Tom filed for Emilio means that Tom and Emilio would be able to come home at last, after six years in exile!

PRESS RELEASE: Same-Sex Couple Raising Three Children in Colorado Becomes the First in the U.S. to Receive a Marriage-Based Green Card After Immigration Interview in January

USCIS Issues a Green Card to the Irish Spouse of a Lesbian U.S. Citizen

On July 3, 2013, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a green card for Cathy Davis based on her marriage to Catriona Dowling, making Cathy the first immigrant to become a permanent resident in the U.S. through marriage to her same-sex spouse.

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Cathy and Catriona are raising three children together in Boulder, Colorado: Cian (6), Mardoche (11), and Angelina (9).

Catriona Dowling and Cathy Davis joined The DOMA Project and filed a green card petition based on their marriage in June of 2012 to prevent their family from being torn apart and to demand equality under the law. They were running out of options last year when the extension of Cathy’s work visa was denied. After filing the green card petition and the application to adjust status to permanent residence, Cathy received an employment authorization card which allowed her to work and contribute financially to support her family.  The couple was scheduled for a “green card” interview with USCIS in Denver on January 9, 2013. They were told by the Immigration Officer, who thoroughly reviewed their documentation, that their case could have been approved that day if they had been a man and a woman. However, the interviewing officer put the case on hold at the request of the couple’s attorney, DOMA Project co-founder, Lavi Soloway, rather than issuing a denial.

Speaking from their home in Colorado on July 3rd, Catriona and Cathy said:

“We’re very excited and relieved, we’re over the moon for ourselves and for all families seeking equality. We set up an InfoPass appointment because there had been no action on our case since the DOMA ruling by the Supreme Court a week ago. With the statement from Secretary Janet Napolitano in hand, we wanted to ask why our case had not yet been approved since DOMA had been the only obstacle. Our InfoPass appointment was for 10:45 a.m. We brought our children with us in the hope that we would walk out of the USCIS Field Office with good news and a future to plan. We entered the waiting room at 10:40 a.m. and waited with others to be called to a window.”

Catriona described what it was like the moment they were called to the USCIS window:

“At 10:55 a.m. we were called to the window. The officer at the other side of the window began to log our information into the computer when another officer appeared, introducing herself as the Supervisor, and declared that ‘as of one minute ago’ Cathy’s green card had been approved. The time was 11:00 a.m. I immediately yelled out and began to cry, Cathy was more stunned with the news and quiet for that moment, which led the Supervisor to assume that I was the immigrant spouse. She explained that production of the green card had been ordered and it would soon arrive by mail; she also explained that Cathy could apply for American citizenship in three years, on July 3, 2016.

When we’re asked why we took this route and fought for this green card with the help of The DOMA Project we say: ‘Family is worth fighting for, and our family deserves the same rights as all other families, it’s that simple. It doesn’t take courage to fight for your family, it’s a responsibility.’”

Earlier this year, Cathy and Catriona were featured among several other families in the series of short films called ‘Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines Against DOMA,’ produced by Brynn Gelbard and The DeVote Campaign in collaboration with The DOMA Project. The series focuses on lesbian and gay couples across America asserting their own inherent equality by petitioning for green cards based on their marriages and demanding that the U.S. government treat them no differently than opposite sex couples under federal law.

Just last week, on June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law that prohibited the federal government from recognizing marriages of same-sex couples for all purposes including immigration benefits, as a violation of the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution.

Just two days later, the first “stand alone” green-card petition was approved on June 28, 2013, for another couple working with The DOMA Project: Julian Marsh and Traian Popov in Florida. Approval of a green card petition filed by a U.S. citizen is the first of a two-part process through which the spouse obtains status as a “lawful permanent resident” and receives the actual green card. (Marsh and Popov will complete the second part and receive a green card later this year.) 

Cathy and Catriona are the first same-sex couple to have a marriage-based green card issued by USCIS. Cathy Davis will forever be the first person to have shattered this barrier.

Coincidentally, Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan, the first gay couple to wage a fight against the Immigration Service were married in Boulder, Colorado, in 1975. They filed green card petition and assert that their legal marriage must be recognized for purposes of the immigration law.  Although they were unsuccessful in their lawsuit against the Immigration Service, they are widely respected as pioneers in the movement for marriage equality and immigration rights for lesbian and gay binational couples. Adams and Sullivan, who lived in Los Angeles, were together as a couple for more than 40 years until the death of Richard Adams in December.  They blazed a trail for Cathy and Catriona and inspired thousands of others who have take up the cause of equality for LGBT families.

Statement by Lavi Soloway, Attorney and Co-Founder of the DOMA Project:

“Seven days after the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, a green card has been issued to Cathy Davis. She is the first same-sex spouse of an American citizen ever to receive a green card, and as such she will forever occupy an important place in the history of our civil rights movement. She and her spouse, Catriona, did not wait for change to come. They fought back by standing up to a powerful federal government agency that refused to recognized their marriage or their family. They refused to allow the government to treat them as though they were unmarried, and refused to allow their family to be torn apart by a discriminatory law. They were determined to protect their children and build a future together in this country, and they succeeded in making history.

The issuance of this green card is the culmination of a two-decade grassroots movement in which lesbian and gay Americans fought for the right to sponsor the person that they love for permanent resident status in the United States. It is also the final chapter in a fight for equality that began in 1975 when the first married gay couple, Anthony Sullivan and Richard Adams, sued the U.S. government for a green card and lost.

Lesbian and gay binational couples and their families celebrated the Fourth of July this year having achieved freedom from a cruel law that has torn apart loving, committed couples, forced lesbian and gay Americans into exile to be with the person they love and has resulted in the unconscionable deportation of partners and spouses of lesbian and gay Americans. The long nightmare is over.

In striking down DOMA, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy held that, “[DOMA] tells those couples, and all the world, that their otherwise valid marriages are unworthy of federal recognition. This places same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage… And it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.”

By issuing a green card to Cathy Davis on the basis of her marriage to Catriona, the U.S. government is finally recognizing the inherent dignity of this family, and giving tangible meaning to Justice Kennedy’s ruling.”


ADDENDUM TO JULY 4, 2013 PRESS RELEASE

LOVE AT THE MOUNTAIN TOP: CATHY AND CATRIONA FIGHT FOR THEIR FUTURE AND THEIR FAMILY

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Cathy, Catriona, Mardoche, Cian, Angelina at the USCIS Office in Denver on July 3, 2013

Currently residing in Boulder, Colorado, Catriona and Cathy first met in 2006 on a mountain-climbing expedition in the Himalayas. Though Cathy lived in Dublin, Ireland, and Catriona lived in Colorado, they had an instant connection. After returning to their respective homes, they began a long-distance relationship, falling in love and visiting each other as often as they could. Their exhilarating reunions ended with tearful goodbyes, then long separations. As with many gay binational couples, it was only when they found themselves searching for a way to be together that they realized the severity of their situation. Until the Defense of Marriage Act Section 3 (DOMA) was struck down by the Supreme Court last month, U.S. immigration law did not provide any way for a gay or lesbian American to sponsor his or her foreign-born partner to live and work in the U.S.

Finally, after two years, Cathy secured a work visa when a hospital in San Antonio, Texas, sponsored her to work as a nurse. Cathy was promoted, and her employer petitioned for an extension of her visa.

In January 2012, the Immigration Service denied the extension of Cathy’s work visa, forcing Cathy and Catriona to make a heartbreaking choice: Either Cathy would remain in the United States without lawful status, or she would move back to Ireland leaving behind Catriona and the children. Unwilling to allow their family to be torn apart, Catriona and Cathy decided that Cathy would stay and that they would fight for the right for their family to be together.

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Cathy and Catriona on the day of their green card interview on January 9, 2013

Their first step was to get married. They could not do this in their home state of Texas. They had decided to relocate back to Boulder, but Colorado also has a constitutional ban in place against marriages between people of the same sex. In May 2012, Cathy and Catriona married in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Catriona recalls,

“It was a very special day that allowed us as a couple to declare publicly what we had already declared in private six years prior: our love and commitment to each other.”

With their family settled back into their beloved mountain town, Boulder, Catriona filed a green card petition for Cathy, just as any other American would do for their foreign-born spouse. Despite the possibility that their case could have been denied due to the Defense of Marriage Act, they persisted, determined to protect their future as a family. With hundreds of other couples, they joined The DOMA Project to fight for a secure future for their family. USCIS interviewed Cathy and Catriona January 9, 2013 based on the green card petition filed by Catriona.

Shortly after the interview, Catriona shared her reaction with The DOMA Project:

“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.”

Earlier this year, Cathy and Catriona were featured among several other families in the series of short films called ‘Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines Against DOMA,’ produced by Brynn Gelbard and The DeVote Campaign and Lavi Soloway and The DOMA Project . The series focus on LGBT couples from across America asserting their equality by petitioning for green cards based on their marriages and demanding that the U.S. government treat them no differently than opposite sex couples under federal law.

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Since it was founded in 2010 by attorneys Lavi Soloway and Noemi Masliah, The DOMA Project has filed almost 100 green card petitions for same-sex couples affected by DOMA. USCIS has announced that will soon issue guidance for all DOMA-impacted immigration cases. The DOMA Project is working closely with members of Congress and with the Obama administration to ensure that all petitions and applications filed by lesbian and gay couples are processed as quickly as possible.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Project Associate Derek Tripp or Lavi Soloway, attorney and co-founder of The DOMA Project.

VICTORY! Green Card Granted to Married Lesbian Couple in Colorado, Cathy Davis is the First Same-Sex Spouse to Become Lawful Permanent Resident of the United States

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Cathy & Catriona: lesbian moms raising three children in Colorado became the first same-sex couple in the U.S. to receive a marriage-based green card after their immigration interview in January this year.

READ FULL PRESS RELEASE

This happened, just in time for The DOMA Project participants, Cathy and Catriona, and their three beautiful children to celebrate the Fourth of July. Cathy is the first same-sex spouse to become a Lawful Permanent Resident of the United States after having a marriage-based green card interview. Although their interview took place in January and could have been denied on the spot because of DOMA, the USCIS officer agreed that their case would have been approved that day if they were an opposite sex couple and she put the case on hold at the request of their attorney, DOMA Project co-founder, Lavi Soloway. Today, in an in-person meeting with officials in Denver they received unexpected good news.

Exactly one week after the Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA, Cathy and Catriona appeared at that same USCIS office to ask why Cathy’s green card had not been approved and issued. Just before 11 a.m., the Supervisor came out to tell them that Cathy’s green card had been approved and ordered for production “one minute ago.” Unlike DOMA Project participants, Julian Marsh and Traian Popov in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who won approval of a green card petition based on their marriage on Friday, Cathy and Catriona had filed both the green card petition and green card application hoping they would be lucky enough to get to the interview before USCIS identified them as a same-sex couple. Cathy and Catriona were not issued a denial based on DOMA early in the processing of their case, unlike many other binational couples who filed similar cases as part of The DOMA Project’s three-year campaign to hold USCIS accountable for discriminating against lawfully married same-sex couples. 

As with the Florida couple, this victory confirms that DHS is prepared to recognize the legally valid marriages of lesbian and gay couples even when they live in states that do not. Cathy and Catriona were forced to travel from their home in Boulder to marry in Iowa last year because Colorado does not allow same-sex couples to marry. (Yet.)

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! We have made history again.

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DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano Announces All Green Card Cases Filed By Gay Couples Will Be Processed Without Delay

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Statement from Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano:

“After last week’s decision by the Supreme Court holding that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, President Obama directed federal departments to ensure the decision and its implication for federal benefits for same-sex legally married couples are implemented swiftly and smoothly.  To that end, effective immediately, I have directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to review immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse.”

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Happy Pride to All, from The DOMA Project!

Happy Pride to all from the DOMA Project!

“We have love, joy and happiness in our lives. Thanks to the Supreme Court and President Obama we have an approved green card petition and we get to stay in our home and our country. If DOMA had not been struck down we were faced with no alternative but to leave our home and the country that we love so much. We feel extremely grateful and fortunate to have been given the greatest gift possible as we celebrate gay pride around the country. Today we rejoice. Next week we get back to work to defeat all the barriers to full equality.”

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READ FULL PRESS RELEASE

VICTORY! Gay Couple in Florida Received Approval of their Marriage-Based Green Card Petition

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First Time in U.S. History: Approval of a Green Card Petition For a Married Same-Sex Couple

For the first time in the U.S. history, a marriage-based green card petition filed by a same-sex couple has been approved. Florida couple received notice just two days after the Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA.


READ PRESS RELEASE


NYC Immigration Judge Stops Deportation Proceedings Within Minutes of Supreme Court Ruling on DOMA

Post-DOMA universe had its first impact on a binational couple within minutes of DOMA being struck down by the Supreme Court. Within thirty minutes of the Supreme Court ruling, New York City Immigration Judge stopped deportation proceedings for Colombian man married to gay American citizen.

Steven and Sean, The DOMA Project participants, filed for a green card on the basis of their marriage last year.

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At 10:30 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, June 26th, in a New York Immigration Court, attorneys from the law firm Masliah & Soloway requested and were granted a continuance in removal (deportation) proceedings for a Colombian gay man married to an American citizen for whom they had filed a marriage-based green card petition last year.

From Lavi Soloway:

A copy of the 77-page Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor was delivered to the court by our summer intern, Gabe, who ran five blocks and made it in time for the decision to be submitted to the Immigration Judge and to serve a copy on the Immigration & Customs Enforcement Assistant Chief Counsel.

Rachel Maddow featured The DOMA Project’s historic victory for Sean & Steven in Immigration Court on tonight’s show:

Sean and Steven’s story has also been reported by ThinkProgress, MSNBC, Politico, Huffington Post, Raw Story, Gay Star News, New York Observer, Americablog, The Wall Street Journal, among others.

SUPREME COURT STRIKES DOWN ANTI-GAY “DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT” IN HISTORIC RULING

MARRIAGES OF SAME-SEX COUPLES NOW RECOGNIZED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY


Gay American Citizens Can Now Sponsor Foreign-Born Spouses for Green Cards, Ending Immigration Nightmare

In a groundbreaking and historic ruling, the Supreme Court of the United States has placed itself on the right side of history and found Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be an unconstitutional exercise of federal authority and a violation of the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution in a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Kennedy.  Originally signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, DOMA has denied lawfully married gay and lesbian couples from the benefits and protections of more than 1,100 federal provisions.  These wide-ranging benefits include all of immigration law and the right of an American citizen to sponsor his or her spouse for a green card and to file a fiancé(e) visa petition to bring his or her partner to the United States.

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Writing for the Court, Justice Kennedy stated unequivocally that,

“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.  By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”

The DOMA Project has filed over 70 green card and fiancé(e) visa petitions for same-sex couples since its inception in 2010.  The sole basis for denial by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was Section 3 of DOMA.  After today’s ruling, that obstacle has, at long last, been removed.

Lavi Soloway, gay rights attorney and co-founder of the DOMA Project, offers his view on the ruling:

“Today’s historic ruling puts millions of lesbian and gay Americans and their families on equal footing under federal law.  By ending the discrimination against married same-sex couples, the Supreme Court has extended the promise of equality granted by the U.S. Constitution to all Americans regardless of sexual orientation.  Beginning today, lesbian and gay Americans will be able to file green card petitions for their foreign-born spouses and fiancé(e) visa petitions to bring their partners to the United States. The federal government will no longer stand in the way of lesbian and gay binational couples who seek nothing more than to build a life together in the United States.  The Supreme Court’s ruling is the culmination of years of the tireless efforts of courageous and determined couples who stood up for the right to be together, and fought back against a government that sought to tear apart their families.  We expect the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to begin approving green card petitions for married lesbian and gay couples immediately.”

The defeat of DOMA effectively means the end to deportation of spouses of gay and lesbian Americans who will now be eligible for green cards. It will reunite same-sex couples who have been torn apart and forced to live in separate countries, including many cases in which parents have been separated from their minor children, and it will end the exile of gay and lesbian Americans who have been forced to live abroad in order to be with the person they love.  With Section 3 of DOMA gone, our family-based immigration laws will now treat all families equally, regardless of sexual orientation.

The following couples are available for interviews and press:

Brian & Alfonso

San Francisco / Bay Area, CA

Donna & Dana

Los Angeles, CA

Shaun & John

Los Angeles, CA

Judy & Karin

San Jose, CA

Catriona & Cathy and their 3 children

Boulder, CO

Paul & Michael

Snowmass Village, CO

Daniel & Yohandel

Miami, FL

Andi & Sveta

Macomb, IL

Lujza & Joy

Lexington, KY

Caroline & Laurie

Somerset, MA

Anton & Marco

Separated:

Anton: Madison Heights, MI

Marco: Italy

Brad & Christian

Separated:

Brad:  Kalamazoo, MI

Christian:  Uruguay

Becky & Sanne and their daughter

Asheville, NC

Ed & Tim

Separated:

Ed: Durham, NC

Tim: Cairo, Egypt

Margie & Janice

Waxhaw, NC

Ben & Dario

Elizabeth, NJ

Jennifer & Rachel

Secaucus, NJ

Enzo & Juan

New York City, NY

Luke & Brandon

New York City, NY

Glen & Tom

New York City, NY

James & Daniel

New York City, NY

Eric & Reinaldo

New York City, NY

Jesse & Maximiliano

Exiled to London, England

From: New York City, NY

Tom & Emilio

Exiled to Ontario, Canada

From: New York City, NY

Frédéric & Mark and their 4 children

Harrisburg, PA

Brian & Anton

Philadelphia, PA

Jon & Sergio

Providence, RI

Sarah & Emma and their baby son

Exiled to the Chapel-en-le-Frith, UK

From: Tiverton, RI

Andy & Achim

Exiled to Germany

From: Nashville, TN

Jennifer & Elizabeth

Houston, TX

Steven & Ricardo and their baby son

Tukwila, WA

For more information about any couple listed above or our campaign, and to schedule an interview, please contact Project Associate Derek Tripp or Lavi Soloway, attorney and co-founder of The DOMA Project.


Lavi Soloway, Attorney and Co-Founder - Phone: 323-599-6915  

Derek Tripp, Project Associate - Phone: 646-535-3788

 

(VIDEO) Married Gay Couple Scheduled For Green Card Interview in New York, One Day Before Supreme Court Rules on DOMA

In 1996, Andres received the highest rank that a Mormon missionary could achieve because he was an expert on promoting the Proclamation of the Family, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Now, he is on another mission — to educate people on the different types of families, rooted in love and all deserving of equality, including the right for his husband, Enzo, to sponsor him for a green card, like any other binational couple in the United States.

(Enzo/U.S./Argentina — Andres/Uruguay) — Brooklyn, NY.

On Tuesday June 25, Enzo and Andres were scheduled to attend their green card interview in New York, one day before the Supreme Court will rule on DOMA. The USCIS decided to postpone the interview until after the Court rules.

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The video is part of the collaborative series, ‘Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines Against DOMA,’ produced by Lavi Soloway and Brynn Gelbard for The DOMA Project and the DeVote Campaign.

(VIDEO) Love Makes a Family: For Cathy, Catriona and Their Three Children in Boulder, Colorado Everything is at Stake in the Imminent Supreme Court Ruling

Cathy and Catriona may be the first married, same-sex couple in the United States to receive a green card, after they completed their interview at the Denver, Colorado USCIS office and cleared all eligibility hurdles except for DOMA. Their case has not been denied, and The DOMA Project co-founder, their attorney, Lavi Soloway, says they may be the first couple to have their green card case approved the day the Supreme Court strikes down DOMA.

Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines Against DOMA,’ produced by Lavi Soloway and Brynn Gelbard for The DOMA Project and The DeVote Campaign is a series of short films. The series feature LGBT families from across America who are asserting their equality by petitioning for green cards based on their marriages and demanding that the U.S. government treat them no differently than opposite sex couples under federal law. They are opening up about their personal struggles under the Defense of Marriage Act to shine a spotlight on this prejudicial law and end it, all the while ensuring their experiences are properly archived as history that should be learned from and never repeated.

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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.