VIDEO: Brian & Anton: One Year After Stopping Valentine’s Day Deportation, the Couple Attends Green Card Interview Based on Their Marriage

Watch the video.  

Filmmakers, Gregory and Guillermo, traveled to Philadelphia last month to meet with Brian and Anton, a married binational couple, on the eve of a very important interview. Last year, Anton was scheduled to be deported on Valentine’s Day. After a last-minute decision from the Immigration & Customs Enforcement temporarily saved them from separation hours before his flight was scheduled to depart, the couple has continued to fight to stay together in the United States. This effort culminated with a green card interview on February 13, 2012 at the Immigration Service in Philadelphia where the couple was required to prove the legitimacy of their marriage. It was exactly one year since Anton’s deportation had been stopped, and again Valentine’s Day would be a celebration heavy with significance for this couple.  We are grateful to Brian and Anton for sharing their thoughts and feelings about this roller coaster ride. And we extend our thanks to the filmmakers for traveling to Philadelphia to create this moving video.

Filmmakers Gregory and Guillermo are a binational couple who shared their story with Stop The Deportations – The DOMA Project. See more of their work at The Other Half of the Orange.

Brian & Anton Attend Green Card Interview in Philadelphia Today, Exactly One Year After Stopping a Valentine’s Day Deportation to Indonesia

Anton and Brian outside the USCIS Philadelphia District Office this morning.

It is truly amazing what can happen in one year. One year ago my Anton and I were fighting for a chance just to remain together in this country. We were deeply in love, and we knew we wanted to build a future together. We weren’t married at the time, but had already been talking about taking that step. Yet just a short year ago, the prospect of us even remaining together, let alone one day getting married seemed so remote, so impossible.

Two weeks before Valentine’s Day 2011, after work one night, I went to Anton’s place to have dinner together, as we were accustomed to doing most nights. After we ate, he said, in a serious tone of voice, that he needed to “talk to me.” We all know that’s never a good way to start a conversation! This was the first night I learned of extent of the challenge posed by Anton’s immigration status. It was the first time since we had begun dating that I gave any serious thought as to what it meant to our future. “Our future,” something we again had talked about, but I don’t think either of us really knew what that meant. This was still fairly early in our relationship, and this I can say, was the night that defined us as a couple.

Anton poured his heart out to me, explaining everything about his journey to get to the US – how he got here, where he lived, the people he met, how he had applied for and was repeatedly denied asylum due to extremely poor preparation and lack of representation. As he told me all of this, he was becoming teary-eyed, but obviously trying not to cry. I have to admit (and you won’t hear this often) that I was in the same boat, fighting back tears. Anton described years of appeals that kept hitting brick walls. He was truly afraid to return to Indonesia as a gay man and as a Chinese Christian. I could see that fear in his eyes. As Anton’s narrative came to a close he told me that there was one last Motion to Reopen still pending with the Board of Immigration Appeals, but that the Immigration & Customs Enforcement Office in Philadelphia had decided that it could wait no longer: Anton was required to board a plane on the evening of February 14, 2011 at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. That plane would take him to Jakarta, and away from me. He would be barred from returning to the United States for 10 years. He did nothing wrong. He came to this country in flight from persecution and he had spent nine years fighting for asylum with few resources. He was brave, determined but by most standards, relatively naive about the legal process. He just didn’t know how to prepare such a case and relied on others including paralegals and lawyers to advise him properly.

Anton and Brian at their "green card" interview today

As I sat their listening to him finish describing the situation, a sadness overwhelmed me. The same thought kept repeating in my mind: “I can’t lose this guy, this can’t be happening, what can we do to stop this from happening.” My mind was racing, but Anton’s conclusion was simple and direct: “Brian, I want to stay here to be with you.” This was also the first time we said “I love you” to each other. That was the moment we both decided, together, to fight every way we knew how – to do everything we could to stay together.

Immediately we jumped online to the always trustworthy Google. We started sending emails to every immigration and LGBT organization we could find. We received a few responses the next day, and one of those would serve as our guiding light. A wonderful grass roots organization called Out4Immigration referred us to Lavi Soloway, a long-time LGBT and immigration rights lawyer and activist, who, along with his law partner, had started a pro bono campaign the year before, called Stop The Deportations – The DOMA Project. Lavi immediately came to our aid and the next two weeks were a whirlwind advocacy effort to DHS, Senator Casey and our local Congressman. For two weeks we relentlessly wrote letters, circulated petitions, spoke to the media, and gave numerous interviews. It was a cliffhanger. With Valentine’s Day just a few days away, CNN came to interview us on a Sunday afternoon. We barely ate or slept during those two weeks, fighting for something we both wanted to hold on to dearly and committed ourselves to making happen against all odds.

The fateful day arrived. As couples all around us received flowers from their significant others and looked forward to a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner, we watched the hours tick by. Anton’s flight to Jakarta would depart at 7:30 p.m. if nothing intervened to stop it. Around 4:30 we received a call from Lavi Soloway. ICE had faxed him a letter detailing their decision to allow Anton to stay in the United States, at least until the Board of Immigration Appeals decided his pending Motion to Reopen the original asylum case. We were elated beyond belief that we had more time. The immediate crisis would pass. We would celebrate Valentine’s Day with more gratitude, perhaps, than any other couple in Philadephia that day. For weeks, we had not expected to be together by the end of the day on February 14. We knew that this was only a temporary reprieve, but we believed it was a good sign. Our attorney fought to stop the deportation on the basis of our relationship, and argued that if it were not for the Defense of Marriage Act that we could marry and our marriage would be recognized for immigration purposes. Even though we weren’t married at the time, it was a strong argument. We received positive feedback when I urged my elected officials to advocate to the Department of Homeland Security to stop the deportation that would tear apart our relationship.

After Valentine’s Day, Anton was given another appointment to meet with ICE in Philadelphia where was placed under an Order of Supervision, which meant that every 30 to 90 days, he would need to make a scheduled visit with ICE to “check in,” to give them all his personal information and verify he had not committed any crimes.

The next few months we experienced the cliché “emotional roller coaster.” Just 9 days after the Valentine’s Day deportation was stopped, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder announced that they had determined that “DOMA” was unconstitutional and they would no longer defend it in federal court. We were shocked and elated! This was what we had been saying for two weeks to everyone who would listen. The law that prevents the government from simply treating us like all other couples, preventing me from sponsoring Anton for a green card and re-opening his case on that basis, was cruel, unjust and, yes, unconstitutional. And now my President had announced to the world that this was his opinion, too. We were very hopeful.

Between check-ins at ICE, we were able to live our day to day lives, enjoying each other’s company and planning for the future, as uncertain as that future may be. As winter turned to spring, we moved in together and continued to talk about getting married. In late May or early June 2011, we received news that Anton’s Motion to Reopen proceedings had been denied by the Board of Immigration Appeals, and this news placed him back in the crosshairs of immediate deportation. This was a very scary time for both of us, and the notion that we might be separated soon brought us back to the conversation of getting married. We knew that it was what we wanted to do, that our relationship had evolved to that point. We felt the pressure of time, which in the worst circumstances would be limited.

Trying to plan something big and extravagant was out of the question for a lot of reasons. So we opted instead to take a trip to Washington, DC with a few of our closest friends to take this momentous step together. At this point, we didn’t know how much time we had left together, but we wanted to make the most out of it.

We had a small ceremony in Lafayette Park across from the White House. It was small, intimate, and it was one of the happiest moments in both our lives. To our surprise, three other binational couples in similar situations to our own showed up to support us. They were people we hadn’t ever met before, but felt so compelled to join in our celebration and to support our continued effort to stay together. Neither of us could believe the outpouring of support.

Due to various constraints, financial and otherwise, we decided to put off a larger celebration until we could plan one on a larger scale where all of our friends and family could attend. Our main focus was to be able to have this celebration while we were still able to be together. Once we were married, we would continue our advocacy, fighting for my right to have Anton stay permanently in the United States as my spouse.

The next business day, I filed an I-130 to sponsor Anton for a “green card” based on our marriage, understanding that because of DOMA it could not yet be approved. That summer was another one of those “whirlwind” times. The Obama Administration had given us more hope in this short time than we ever expected by coming out and essentially putting forth guidelines that seemed to be tailor written for our situation to prevent deportations of people like Anton who had strong ties to the community, family relationships, and good moral character.

I began attending all of Anton’s scheduled check-ins with ICE as we felt now we had legal grounds to do so. The ICE officers were well-aquainted with our advocacy work by now and they were welcoming and sympathetic, though still charged with the awful responsibility to execute outstanding removal orders. While each appointment was still a nerve-wracking experience, we were able to give each other strength to get through them. At the end of the summer, we submitted a formal request for “deferred action.” We were hopeful and optimistic that even this temporary form of relief would be afforded to us. After all, Anton’s case seemed to meet every criteria established under the ICE prosecutorial discretion memos, which by August 18 had been clarified to include LGBT families like ours. Despite putting together a persuasive 75-page submission with the help of our attorney, Lavi Soloway, we were denied “deferred action.” Needless to say, we were extremely disappointed. Our attorney filed a new Motion to Reopen proceedings with the Board of Immigration Appeals, and we waited.

The scheduled “supervision” check–ins continued. Coincidentally, the day before our last check in, we received a letter from USCIS notifying us that we had been scheduled for a “green card” interview on the basis of our marriage on February 13, 2012. The date jumped off the page at us. The day before Valentine’s Day? Really? We were amazed that a whole year after the cliffhanger of Anton’s deportation, we were still together and we had not given up hope. As a result the active execution of Anton’s “final order of removal” had been put on pause with repeated “supervision” appointments taking their place. But more importantly, we were still here to go to our marriage interview, to be treated like all other couples in the same situation. We looked forward to celebrating Valentine’s Day having accomplished this amazing milestone: meeting with USCIS to prove that our marriage was real. We prepared all the documentation necessary to prove that we lived together and had integrated our finances and our lives together as a married couple. We brought a stack of photos and letters from friends and family members.

And all this , almost one year exactly to the date from our biggest nightmare. We can’t help but look back over the last year with just a little bit of pride knowing how far we’d come. Yet this “victory” is yet another bittersweet one. We know going into this interview that because of DOMA my “alien relative” petition for Anton’s green card cannot be approved. Yet, we are hopeful something positive will come of it, and we are grateful for the fact that it was even granted.

One year ago today, we didn’t know if we would awake the next morning in two different countries. We consider ourselves lucky to have the opportunity to have been together this long and not had to endure the pain separation and/or exile that many like us have had to bear. One year later, we’ve come full circle, but we continue to fight for every month, every week and every day we have together. Our futures are still uncertain. We have talked about starting a family; however, that family will need both Anton and me at its core. We have agreed that until we can secure our future by achieving permanent resident status in the US for Anton, that we must put that on hold. We feel it would unfair to bring children into such an unstable environment. As much as we would love to have children, we both know that first we must lay a solid foundation. This is our commitment to one another, and one day we intend to see it fulfilled.

GLAAD Launches Call To Action: Tell President Obama to Stop The DOMA Deportations, Enforce His Promised LGBT-Inclusive Guidelines and Keep Brian & Anton Together

Sign the petition to President Obama today. Time is running out for Brian & Anton. Share this link with your friends. We must stop this deportation!

DHS Admits The Administration Needs to Provide “Additional Training” To Ensure New Guidelines Are Properly Applied. Will It Come In Time For Brian & Anton?

See “Officials Deny Deportation Reprieve for Gay Binational Couple,” The Advocate, Friday October 6, 2011.

ICE Denies Brian & Anton’s Request for Deferred Action, Refuses to Stop the Deportation – Obama Administration New LGBT-Inclusive Policy Fails to Stop DOMA Deportation

Philadelphia Deportation Officers Deny Request By Gay Binational Couple For “Deferred Action”


ICE Refuses to Apply New Obama Administration Deportation Guidelines to Stop “DOMA Deportation” of Gay Indonesian Married to U.S. Citizen


In a First Test of New Deportation Policy Meant to Set Aside Low Priority Cases, Including for LGBT Families, the Obama Administration Fails to Deliver

PHILADELPHIA, OCTOBER 7, 2011 – The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Philadelphia has refused to stop the deportation that would separate Anton Tanumihardja, an Indonesian citizen, from his American husband, Brian Andersen, despite new guidelines issued by the Obama administration that are intended to set aside all low-priority deportation cases and keep all families together – including gay and lesbian couples.

Specifically, ICE rejected their request for “deferred action,” a remedy that allows individuals meeting specific criteria to stay in the country indefinitely, even though they are technically deportable. At a meeting today with a Philadelphia deportation officer, Anton was told that unless there was some intervention in his case that reversed this decision, he would face deportation by January.

Brian and Anton at home in Philadelphia earlier this year

Brian and Anton at home in Philadelphia earlier this year

In its decision, ICE said only that they denied the request because there was nothing “extraordinary” about their case. The Field Office Director did not explain how he arrived at this decision or why he would only grant deferred action to “extraordinary cases.” ICE did not explain why they were not applying the guidelines set forth on June 19 by ICE Director John Morton.  ICE made no mention of the August 18 letter by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano announcing the administration’s intent to conduct a system-wide review to ensure that all low-priority deportation cases were set aside, and made no mention of the DHS clarification on that day that LGBT families are included in the guidelines.

Statement from Lavi Soloway, lawyer for Anton Tanumihardja & Brian Andersen, and founder of Stop The Deportations:

“We are shocked and disappointed that ICE has failed to implement the guidelines set forth by this administration.  The Obama administration made a commitment to stop deportations that would tear apart families, including gay and lesbian couples, and yet in its decision the ICE office in Philadelphia is failing to make good on that commitment. The administration must take immediate action to ensure that the new deportation policy is being implemented fairly and consistently by ICE deportation officers in local offices, or this policy announcement is meaningless.”

Anton Tanumihardja satisfies numerous criteria set forth by the administration in its prosecutorial discretion guidelines: (1) he has strong ties to Philadelphia which has been his home for the past 9 years; (2) he is a hard working and respected member of his community; (3) ever since fleeing Indonesia, he has pursued a legal immigration process that was ultimately unsuccessful; (4) he is married to his U.S. citizen spouse, Brian Anderson, and has strong family relationships to his spouse and his spouse’s family; (5) he has no ties to Indonesia, a country he fled because of persecution due to his identity as a gay man, Christian and an ethnic Chinese person. The guidelines set forth by DHS also require ICE to consider conditions in the country to which one (i.e., Anton) would be deported.  Anton cannot return to Indonesia and live safely; furthermore, there is no way that his husband, Brian, could move there, nor any way they could safely or legally live there as a legally married gay couple.  All these conditions are laid out in the administration’s prosecutorial discretion guidelines. Despite meeting these conditions, and despite the administration’s recent confirmation that those guidelines would be applied to gay and lesbian couples, Anton now faces the reality of deportation by January.

Brian and Anton’s case is the first test of the administration’s commitment to stop deportations involving same-sex binational couples since the August 18 announcement by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano.  It is the first time that the spouse of a gay American, with a final removal order, has requested prosecutorial discretion under the new guidelines.

“The Obama administration’s new policy has failed to protect Anton and Brian from deportation.  ICE’s determination to deport Anton regardless of the new guidelines demonstrates that the administration has not instructed ICE deportation officers on the implementation of the LGBT-inclusive prosecutorial discretion guidelines for an individual with a final order of removal,” said Lavi Soloway. “Today’s decision is a devastating setback for this couple, and should be of great concern to everyone, including the Obama administration, as they work to ensure that we have a fair and humane deportation policy.”

For more information on the campaign to help couples like Brian & Anton, please see www.StopTheDeportations.com.

Press Contacts: Lavi Soloway, Lawyer/Founder, Stop the Deportations
(323) 599-6915
[email protected]
www.StopTheDeportations.com

Justin Ward
Media Field Strategist
Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
(917) 727-4585
[email protected]

Background of this Case

Anton and Brian on the wedding day in June

Anton had previously exhausted all his appeals and recently received a final denial of his last appeal. Because Anton has a “final order of removal,” ICE has the power to put him on a plane and deport him at any time.  The request for deferred action was his final hope for a halt to deportation.

Earlier this year, Brian and Anton faced the cruel coincidence of a deportation scheduled for Valentine’s Day. Anton, with his bags packed and his one-way plane ticket in hand, was prepared to follow ICE’s instructions: board a plane voluntarily on February 14 or be taken into custody and forcibly deported, even though he knew that by boarding that plane he would be separated from Brian for at least ten years. Stop The Deportations, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and other LGBT groups mounted an emergency advocacy with the support of U.S. Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) and Philadelphia Congressman Robert Brady (D-PA) to raise the profile of the case and persuade ICE to reconsider the case.

Just three hours before Anton’s flight to Jakarta was scheduled to take off, ICE finally agreed to postpone the deportation. Anton was put under an Order of Supervision and was not held in ICE custody. Officially, ICE allowed Anton to stay until a final decision was made by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) on a Motion to Reopen that had been filed in 2010. That Motion was denied on May 31, 2011. A request this summer that DHS join a second Motion to Reopen the case failed when DHS declined to do so. The BIA can still re-open the case on its own decision, but it rarely does so.

On June 12, Brian and Anton married in Washington, D.C., in a ceremony across the street from the White House. Brian filed a green card petition for Anton and will continue to advocate tirelessly for his right to sponsor Anton to stay with him in this country as his spouse.

STOP THE DEPORTATIONS – THE DOMA PROJECT, a campaign co-founded by attorney Lavi Soloway in July 2010 along with his law partner, Noemi Masliah, has contributed to the trend of recent victories. For nearly two decades, Soloway has been the most prominent attorney and advocate on LGBT immigration law and policy in the United States. He has worked exclusively in this field since co-founding the non-profit organization, Immigration Equality, in 1993.

 

Brian & Anton Face Final Deportation Decision on Oct 7 Will New Guidelines Protect This Gay Couple As Promised?

Read this excellent article by Jen Coletta yesterday in the Phildelphia Gay News here and GLAAD’s blog posting urging action in support of Brian and Anton here. See also, our previous summary, The First Big Test: Will The Obama Administration’s New Deportation Rules Come in Time for Brian & Anton?

The First Big Test: Will The Obama Administration’s New Deportation Rules Come in Time for Brian & Anton?

Brian & Anton will spend the next 38 days waiting for a phone call from ICE that may never come.

For the second time this year, Anton Tanumihardja, an Indonesian citizen, and his American husband, Brian Andersen, face the terrifying prospect of a deportation that will destroy their marriage. After losing a nine-year legal battle for asylum, Anton was given a “final order of removal” that may be executed on October 7.

Although this administration recently announced a “kinder, gentler” deportation policy with “prosecutorial discretion” guidelines that include same-sex binational couples, Brian & Anton will still wait anxiously for another month to learn whether this policy will be properly applied in Anton’s case.

Brian and Anton’s case will be the first real test of the administration’s commitment to stop deportations involving same-sex binational couples since the August 18 announcement by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, promising to set-aside low-priority deportation cases. It will also give us a first opportunity to confirm whether individual ICE Deportation Officers implement the LGBT-inclusive prosecutorial discretion guidelines for an individual with a final order of removal.

Unlike the two history-making cases (Henry & Josh, Doug & Alex) in which Stop The Deportations has won “administrative closure” this year, Anton’s case is significantly further along in the legal process. Anton has exhausted all his appeals and recently received a final denial of his last appeal. Because Anton has a “final order of removal” ICE has the power to put him on a plane and deport him at any time.

Will ICE Deportations and Removals Officers apply the prosecutorial discretion guidelines to protect this married gay couple from being torn apart?  As part of the Stop The Deportations campaign, Brian and Anton will use every day that remains to ensure that Anton is granted “deferred action” and to ensure that the Obama administration’s commitment to same-sex binational couples facing deportation has tangible results.

Earlier this year, Brian and Anton faced the cruel coincidence of a deportation scheduled for Valentine’s Day. Anton, with his bags packed and his one-way plane ticket in hand, was prepared to follow ICE’s instructions: board a plane voluntarily on February 14 or be taken into custody and forcibly deported, even though he knew that by boarding that plane he would be separated from Brian for at least ten years. Stop The Deportations, GLAAD and other LGBT groups mounted an emergency advocacy with the support of U.S. Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) and Philadelphia Congressman Robert Brady (D-PA) to raise the profile of the case and persuade ICE to reconsider the case.

Just three hours before Anton’s flight to Jakarta was scheduled to take off, ICE finally agreed to postpone the deportation. Anton was put under an order of supervision and was not held in ICE custody. At regular intervals he was required to check in with his Deportation Officer at the local Deportations and Removals Operations office of ICE.  Officially, ICE allowed Anton to stay until a final decision was made by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) on a Motion to Reopen that had been filed in 2010. In fact, deportations are routinely carried out even in cases where there such motions are pending, so it seemed likely that ICE was, at least in part, responding to the specific humanitarian circumstances faced by Brian and Anton. This gave them hope that they would have a future together.

Photo by Jeff Fusco/Philadelphia Weekly

Unfortunately, in early June, Anton learned that the BIA had denied his final appeal. The couple was devastated, but they decided to go forward with their planned wedding. On June 12, Brian and Anton were married in the company of friends in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House. Brian immediately filed a marriage-based I-130 petition for Anton, joining our DOMA challenge.

On August 25, Anton went to see his Deportation Officer for his first supervised check-in since the BIA denial prepared to submit a request for “deferred action.” It had only been a few days since Secretary Napolitano announced that the administration would review all pending deportation cases, including those with final orders of removal.  Still, Brian & Anton could not sleep the night before; they worried that ICE in Philadelphia would not know how to apply the prosecutorial discretion rules to gay couples.  Their fears turned out to be well-founded. The officer was kind and co-operative, but he was not sure how to proceed given that these guidelines were new.

After conferring with his supervisor for 45 minutes, the officer returned to tell them that no decision could be made on that day. He instructed Anton to return on October 7 and advised him that there was a strong chance that on that day he would informing him that he deportation would proceed.

Once again, the clock is ticking on Brian and Anton’s marriage. It does not have to be this way.

Anton & Brian on their wedding day

Anton is a prime candidate for “deferred action.” He has never committed a crime, he has strong ties to Philadelphia, he has close family ties to his husband, Brian, and Brian’s family. He has been here for nine years and has worked hard and paid taxes.  Finally, conditions in Indonesia would make return to that country not only dangerous for Anton as a gay man who is also a member of the Chinese Christian minority, but would make it impossible for Brian to join him. Not only does Indonesia not provide for the immigration of same-sex spouses or partners of its citizens, but a conspicuous, openly gay couple like Brian and Anton would be vulnerable to abuse and harm.

Brian and Anton should not have to wait until October 7 to learn whether their lives will be torn apart.  We urge the administration to make good on their promise to exercise discretion and stop deportations that tear apart LGBT families.  The Department of Homeland Security can do this today by directing the Philadelphia ICE office to make a decision on Anton’s request for deferred action now.

After Marrying, Brian & Anton File Spousal Green Card Petition and Continue Their Fight Against Deportation

Getting Married in DC
by Brian Andersen

In February, we were saved from a Valentine’s Day deportation by the tremendous, non-stop, round the clock efforts of Lavi Soloway and the Stop the Deportations campaign.

At the time Anton and I were not married, but we had been dating for seven months and we felt that we had a very strong connection. We were in love and we knew that we wanted to spend our lives together.

Some people may have wondered why we fought so hard for something that was relatively new? For us there was never a question that we had to fight for our love.

We were interviewed at the time by many journalists, and CNN and many other news outlets reported our fight to stop Anton’s deportation. While we won a temporary victory but we still live in constant fear that Anton could be deported. In the meantime, our relationship has progressed. We moved in together and started to make plans to marry on June 12 in Washington, DC and then to celebrate with family in friends in August.

The decision to marry was not one that we took lightly. Despite knowing each other for just ten months, we knew that this was a commitment we wanted to make to each other. In the past ten months we have been inseparable, spending at least five days a week together and often more.

From the time we met, we knew there was something special between us.  Naturally conversation led to what we wanted and expected out of our futures, both individually and together. Of course the topic of marriage came up, and was always something we repeatedly returned to as something we wanted for ourselves down the road. Neither of us wanted to take that leap without careful consideration, and with time we just knew it was the right move for us. We were living together, spending all of our time together, sharing expenses, laughs, meals, and nights at home watching movies.

Philadelphia Weekly reports on Brian and Anton’s wedding plans

We chose to have a small ceremony in Washington, DC for a few reasons. First, unlike Pennsylvania where we lived, Washington was one of the six jurisdictions in the United States where we could have a legally recognized marriage.    As a binational gay couple, our relationship faces blatant discrimination by federal law, specifically the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which precludes the federal government from recognizing our marriage. We specifically chose Lafayette Park across from the White House for our ceremony because we wanted to make a statement to the Obama administration with the most personal moments—our marriage—while standing in a pleasant and aesthetically appealing environment. Our feeling is that the Obama administration is our ally, and so we celebrate that a champion of LGBT rights occupies the White House. At the same time, while Obama administration has come out and publicly stated it believes DOMA is unconstitutional, we need him to do more to ensure that we are not torn apart.  Our message: “President Obama, Defend Our Marriage.”  

To our surprise, two other binational couples –complete strangers to us who heard about our plans to marry– showed up unexpectedly to show their support for our marriage and celebrate the day with us. It warmed our hearts to know we weren’t alone, and to meet others who were facing these challenges.

Last night I filed a marriage-based green card petition to sponsor Anton to remain in the United States. I filed this petition to keep my husband and life partner here and to keep my family together. That should be the automatic result, but because of DOMA we embark on the next chapter in a fight that none of us should have to fight.  Anton and I will continue to fight for ourselves and for the thousands of binational couples out there.

We hope that those who come after us can follow the path of any other American citizen who can sponsor his or her spouse for a green card. We can only hope that day comes sooner rather than later.

For more background on this case see Breaking News From Philadelphia Weekly.

Across from the White House, Brian & Anton Get Married

The happily married couple in Lafayette Park Sunday afternoon

Obama Will Not ” Win The Future” In Time For Spouses of Lesbian & Gay Americans Facing DOMA Deportations

This comprehensive report on the crisis of DOMA deportations demands that the Obama administration act immediately (it was cross posted at Pam’s House Blend).  It is a must-read for anyone following the progress of our Stop The Deportations campaign.

We started this work in 1993, just three years after U.S. immigration law was amended to remove the bar on admissibility of gay and lesbian non-citizens.  In the intervening 18 years we have helped to build a diverse movement of binational couples, organizations and advocates.  We have raised the profile of this issue for the general public,  elected officials and major LGBT and immigration reform organizations.

Last July, we launched a new strategy called The DOMA Project. Beginning with the Stop The Deportations campaign our effort was designed to highlight what we believe is the core issue for binational couples: marriage (in)equality. We did this by challenging DOMA in Immigration Court. The message could not be simpler: married same-sex binational couples should be protected by the family unification provisions of our existing immigration laws just like all other married binational couples. The only obstacle that remains is DOMA.  For that reason we have argued that until DOMA’s fate is determined by Congress or the courts this administration must stop deportations that separate lesbian and gay couples, destroying marriages and families. Fighting to halt deportations is a vital part of winning full equality for all binational couples.

Participant couples include those who are separated, those who are exiled, those facing imminent deportation and those who are together in this country but who are living in fear of an uncertain future.

As the architects of this new DOMA-focused campaign we have catapulted the issue of binational couples into the media and brought the crisis of “DOMA deportations” to the White House itself.  You can help us continue this momentum.

To achieve full equality we need your participation and support. Our own personal stories remain our most valuable tool. We have developed a unique blend of legal strategy and advocacy for every couple involved in the Stop The Deportations campaign—strategies that protect them and advance the broader goal of defeating DOMA. Contact us here to find out how you can get involved. It can be as simple as sharing your story and does not require revealing any identifying information. We are also accepting donations to help us expand this effort, in partnership with the Love, Honor, Cherish Foundation.

As part of this pro bono project we have provided free legal advice to binational couples who are separated, exiled or facing deportation. We have collaborated with other attorneys, activists and organizations providing strategic support as binational couples face deportations hearings in Immigration Courts around the country.

And most importantly, we are winning.

We have stopped four deportations in four months. In each case, the government has agreed to allow the couple to remain together for now. In doing so, the government demonstrates that it can respect their relationship, even while DOMA still prevents recognition of their marriage.

(Read about these victories: Anton & Brian, Rodrigo & Edwin, Monica & Cristina, and Henry & Josh.)

The weeks and months ahead will be extremely busy here at Stop The Deportations.  We are confident that we will get our message through and that we will win interim protection for all couples until the day that DOMA is finally repealed or struck down by the Supreme Court. This fight is a part of a larger battle to win full equality.

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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.