USCIS Approves 2010 Green Card Petition for Pioneering Gay Couple Who Stopped the First DOMA Deportation

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Josh and Henry photographed in May in New Jersey’s Liberty State Park (Jonathan Ystad/GetEqual)

In the summer of 2010, Josh and Henry married in Connecticut, eight years after Henry first arrived in this country with his mother and sister from Venezuela. A failed employment-based immigration case filed by an unscrupulous lawyer had resulted in Henry being placed into deportation proceedings. After approaching the law firm, Masliah & Soloway, they joined our newly-formed campaign, The DOMA Project.

Masliah & Soloway filed one of their first green card petitions for a married same-sex couple on behalf of Josh and Henry. They then set off on a program of public advocacy that stretched from mainstream television and print to social media. On September 26, 2010, with Henry’s mother, Luz, and attorney Lavi Soloway, The DOMA Project attended a rally for Marriage Equality in lower Manhattan with other binational couples, for the first time fighting to “Stop The Deportations.”

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And that is how it all started. What followed was a three-year campaign in Immigration Courts, USCIS offices and in the Court of Public Opinion, engaging the White House, U.S. Senators and Josh and Henry’s strongly supportive Congressman, Rush Holt.

Josh and Henry, who have been together since 2006, not only inspired hundreds of other couples to join the campaign and take a more direct approach, but also proved by their actions that a small group of committed individuals could bring about change.

In the spring of 2011, Josh and Henry won a major victory when ICE agreed to stop deportation proceedings against Henry, and for the first time the government agreed to close proceedings acknowledging that this deportation would not be taking place if not for DOMA. We salute them today and look forward to sharing more good news here about other couples who are finally experiencing what it means to win equality and end discrimination against LGBT families in US immigration law.

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This week, Josh and Henry learned that their green card petition filed in 2010 in defiance of DOMA has been approved exactly three years after it was filed. During these three years, Josh and Henry’s narrative inspired hundreds of other binational couples to join a public fight for equality by sharing their own stories with their communities, with their elected officials, and with the media.

As Josh and Henry’s story comes full circle, our work continues to make sure that all lesbian and gay binational couples are swiftly reunited and able to move forward with their future with security and full protection of the laws.

23 Years Together, Raising Four Children, Mark and Frédéric Rejoice at Their Approved Green Card Case

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In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Mark Himes and Frédéric Deloizy, stepped up to the front lines of the fight against DOMA early on in 2011 by filing a marriage-based green card petition and advocating for full equality for their family. As a foreigner, Frédéric, a French national, had seen both his work visa and his student visa expire, and the time he had left to share with his family was limited under DOMA.

Frédéric and Mark were wed in California in 2008, 18 years after they first met. In two decades together, they have adopted four beautiful children. They welcomed their two oldest, John and Claire, just days after their respective birthdays in 2000 and 2003. On their 19th anniversary in April 2009, Fred and Mark welcomed Jacob and Joshua, both four years old at the time.

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Mark and Frédéric have put countless efforts over the past few years into staying together as a family in the United States: building their home, and putting down their roots. On January 11th, last year, they appeared before a Philadelphia Immigration Officer for a “Green Card” interview to put forward the evidence of their two-decades relationship and their marriage to be allowed to stay together with their children in this country.

After twenty-three years together for Mark and Frédéric, this family of six in Pennsylvania was notified that Fred and Mark’s green card case was, at last, approved. Despite the hurdles they faced to stay together as a same-sex binational couple, Fred and Mark decided that they must fight for the green card based on their marriage and today that fight was won at long last.

We rejoice with Mark, Frédéric, John, Claire, Jacob and Joshua, as after a long struggle, this family can resume their lives, treated equally under the law.

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Mark, Frédéric, John, Claire, Jacob and Joshua at the White House Easter Egg Roll in 2010

 

Green Card Granted: Victory over DOMA for Becky and Sanne in North Carolina

Late Sunday night, DOMA Project co-founder, immigration attorney Lavi Soloway, boarded a red eye flight from Los Angeles to Charlotte, North Carolina, to witness the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution work its magic for a married binational lesbian couple, Becky and Sanne, and their beautiful daughter, Willow.

 Becky & Sanne en route to green card interview w/ atty Lavi Soloway

Becky & Sanne en route to green card interview with attorney Lavi Soloway

Although North Carolina voters passed the infamous anti-gay state constitutional “Amendment 1″ in May 2012 that bars The Tar Heel State from recognizing and performing marriages or civil unions of same-sex couples, Masliah & Soloway clients, Becky and Sanne, who married in the Netherlands, were treated just as any other married couple as they arrived at their green card interview on Monday, August 5th, at 10 a.m. at the USCIS office in Charlotte. The Officer thoroughly reviewed the journey of their relationship which began in India and included time spent in Belgium and the Netherlands as well as Africa. The Officer was satisfied that they had provided sufficient evidence of the bona fides of their marriage and officially re-opened the denied green card application (the Board of Immigration Appeals had already ordered the green card petition to be re-opened) and adjudicated it at the same time.

Becky, Sanne and their daughter Willow live in Asheville, North Carolina. They first joined The DOMA Project in July 2011 when they shared their incredible, moving story, “Ten Trips, a Wedding and a Daughter: Exiled Binational Couple Finds a New Life in Belgium.” In 2012, Becky and Sanne settled down to a life in North Carolina. They married and filed a green card petition on the basis of their marriage. They also participated in our short film series, “Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines of DOMA,” which was produced by The DOMA Project in collaboration with Brynn Gelbard and the DeVote Campaign. (Read more about our collaboration on this series here.)

The DOMA Project participants, Becky and Sanne had been on the forefront of the fight for equality, filing for a green card last year and telling their story in print and on screen. Just before Mother’s Day Becky and Sanne had learned that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) rejected the denial of the marriage-based green card petition they had filed last year. The BIA sent the case back to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Field Office in Charlotte, North Carolina for further processing with orders to conduct complete fact-finding, including an interview, to determine whether they would be eligible for a green card if not for Section 3 of DOMA. Today, in the post-DOMA reality for which they so visibly and zealously advocated, Becky and Sanne finally had their long-awaited interview with the USCIS Charlotte office.

At the conclusion of the interview, the USCIS Officer announced with a smile that Sanne was now a lawful permanent resident of the United States, and Becky and Sanne shared a hug and tears of joy. Just 75 minutes after the interview began, USCIS ordered production of the actual green card which is expected to come by mail the next week. The USCIS Officer made the extraordinary gesture of placing into Sanne’s passport a red stamp, indicating that she was a “Lawful Permanent Resident” secured by the official seal of the USCIS in order to facilitate her need to renew her expired driver’s license and “get on with her life” without further delay. As Becky and Sanne parted ways with their attorney at the Charlotte airport a few minutes ago, there were hugs and more tears. “We did it!” they all seemed to say in unison.

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Becky and Sanne are living a tangible, genuine triumph of the Windsor case: post-DOMA‬ reality. Thanks to Edie Windsor’s incredible determination and courage and their own resolve to be treated equally, Becky and Sanne are well on the way to build a better future for themselves and their daughter in North Carolina.

This is what equality looks like.

Rick & Gonzalo: Same-Day Green Card Approval for Married Gay Couple in San Francisco, Just Hours After Interview

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In 2012, after years of fighting DOMA as a binational couple from Argentina and San Francisco, Gonzalo proposed to Rick with two dozen beautiful red roses, along with chocolate, a large red heart, and a card that said, “You are the man I want to spend the rest of my life with. Will you marry me?!” Rick cried tears of joy. Yes, he said.

Rick and Gonzalo were married in 2013: they called the New York Blizzard of 2013 the icing on their wedding cake. It was then that Rick and Gonzalo joined the other binational couples with The DOMA Project and put their faith in The DOMA Project’s ground-breaking strategy to fight the Defense of Marriage Act by filing for their green card even when their case was not yet approvable.

In March 2013, Rick filed a green card petition for Gonzalo, just like any other American citizen would do for his foreign-born spouse.

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Today, as Rick and Gonzalo attended their marriage-based green card interview, their attorney Lavi Soloway‘s eyes welled up with “happy tears” as they presented the evidence of their relationship: the interview was the first one that he had attended with a married gay couple since the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, a historic milestone in a twenty-year career as an immigration lawyer working with LGBT families.

The USCIS officer, as expected, treated Rick and Gonzalo exactly as she would have treated any other married couple. She noted the historical nature of the event, but proceeded to review the evidence of their relationship and their marriage thoroughly.

Just five hours after the interview, Rick and Gonzalo learned that their green card case was granted in record time. USCIS notified their attorney by e-mail and he called to relay the unexpectedly fast decision.

Today Rick and Gonzalo were treated as though DOMA never existed. After more than five years spent traveling between Buenos Aires and San Francisco and often separated for long periods by U.S. immigration law, they finally have the green light to build a future together here.

This is what equality looks like!

Claus and Tom: The DOMA Project Participants Celebrate Hard-won Equality

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In what has become a joyous post-DOMA reality, USPS delivered a green card to yet another happy same-sex binational couple: Claus Andersbo and Tom Bercu of Los Angeles. Claus – originally from Denmark – and Tom – a U.S. citizen – had filed for the green card for Claus based on their marriage in anticipation of the Defense of Marriage Act being struck down by the Supreme Court. They were scheduled for their green card interview and attended it in May this year.

During the interview their immigration attorney, Lavi Soloway, had argued that their green card application should be put on hold pending the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA. After the Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA at the end of June, it didn’t take long for Tom and Claus to learn that their green card was granted and was in the process of being made and mailed to them. Claus Andersbo is only the fourth immigrant in the nation to be granted a green card based on his marriage to his same-sex spouse.

Today, the DOMA Project participants, Claus and Tom can celebrate their hard-won equality, with the green card in hand. Tomorrow, we expect further joyous news from many more gay and lesbian binational couples: fighting to stay in the U.S. with their families, to reunite with their loved ones, and to be able to travel and work freely at last.

Family Celebrates! San Jose Lesbian Couple Receives Green Card, UK Spouse Can Finally Visit Her Children Abroad

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On July 15, 2013, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a green card to U.K. citizen, Karin Bogliolo, 72, based on her marriage to U.S. citizen Judy Rickard, 65, making Karin the third gay immigrant in U.S. history to become a lawful permanent resident on the basis of a same-sex marriage.

Karin and Judy attended their green card interview in September, 2012 with their attorney, Lavi Soloway, co-founder of The DOMA Project, who proceeded to persuade the USCIS office in San Jose to put their case on hold for another ten months so that it would be approved immediately after the Supreme Court ruling.

Shortly after being approved, Karin’s green card arrived in the mail – a final physical proof that Judy and Karin had won their fight to remain together as a family in the U.S.  Karin Bogliolo can now live in the U.S. with her wife Judy Rickard without fear of separation, and can also travel to visit her children abroad. At last, Karin and Judy celebrate their victory, knowing that their marriage was treated equally under the law.

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Gay Couple Receives Green Card: DOMA‬ Project Participants Shaun & John Celebrate and Keep Up The Fight for Equality

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This week, Shaun Stent had received his green card in the mail: final physical proof of John and Shaun‘s victory in 13-year fight against DOMA to be able to live in U.S. as a family.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a green card to U.K. citizen, Shaun Stent, on July 11, 2013, based on his marriage to American citizen, John Catuara, making Shaun the second gay immigrant in U.S. history to become a lawful permanent resident on the basis of a same-sex marriage.  The couple have been together since 2001. They married in January 2012, and have struggled for thirteen years to be together in this country.

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Victory for Steve and Ricardo (with Son Andrew) in Seattle: Denied Green Card Case Now Reopened

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In immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling in United States v Windsor in which Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down as unconstitutional, the Obama administration announced that it had kept a list of all green card petitions denied because of DOMA since 2011 and promised to reopen those cases. This promise is now a reality for Steve and Ricardo (with son Andrew) in Seattle, who had just learned that their green card case, previously denied in 2012, due to the Defense of Marriage Act, was reopened.

This is the first known green card case previously denied due to DOMA which had been reopened after the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act last month. The entire green card case was reopened by USCIS including the petition and application for green card and the applications for employment authorization and travel permission. The couple now await scheduling for their green card interview, the last step before receiving a green card.

GREEN CARD GRANTED: Tom Bercu and Claus Andersbo of Los Angeles

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Tom Bercu and Claus Andersbo of Los Angeles become the fourth same-sex couple in the nation to receive a marriage-based green card after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last month. The DOMA Project participants, Tom and Claus, who originally comes from Denmark, have filed their green card application earlier this year in anticipation of the Supreme Court decision and as a statement to the government that they will fight for their right to be treated equally as a family.

Tom and Claus follow in the footsteps of several DOMA Project couples, in Florida, Colorado, and California, in Los Angeles, and Toronto. Just two days after the Supreme Court decision that struck down DOMA, the first “stand alone” green-card petition was approved on June 28, 2013, for another gay couple working with The DOMA Project: Julian Marsh and Traian Popov of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Five days after the Supreme Court decision, Cathy Davis was granted a green card, becoming the first immigrant to become a permanent resident through her same-sex marriage to Catriona Dowling of Colorado.

A second “stand alone” green card petition was also approved for Tom Smeraldo, a gay American living in forced exile in Canada with his Venezuelan husband, Emilio Ojeda. They left the U.S. six years ago to avoid the deportation of Ojeda to Venezuela.

Additionally, the second green card was granted on July 12 to Shaun Stent, based on his marriage to John Catuara, residing in Los Angeles. On the same weekend, Judy Rickard and Karin Bogliolo, a lesbian couple residing in San Jose, California, had also learned that their green card had been issued.

Read more about The DOMA Project victories on the following page.

SEE OUR VICTORIES

GREEN CARD: Post-‎DOMA‬ Reality for ‪LGBT‬ Family in Boulder, ‎Colorado,‬ Hits Home When the Mail is Delivered

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On July 15, 2013, Cathy Davis received her issued green card in the mail. Cathy and Catriona are the first same-sex couple in the U.S. to receive a marriage-based green card after their immigration interview in January.  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.

This is what equality looks like.

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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.