USCIS Approves 2010 Green Card Petition for Pioneering Gay Couple Who Stopped the First DOMA Deportation
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.”
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.
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.
Josh Vandiver & Henry Velandia and Courage Campaign Ask Senator Robert Menendez to Support DOMA Repeal
Update: On December 18, 2011 the New Jersey Star-Ledger published this Op-Ed by U.S. Senator Menendez in which he announces his support for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Congratulations to Josh & Henry and the thousands of other lesbian and gay couples in New Jersey who spoke out about the impact of DOMA on their lives.
|Josh and Henry photographed in May in New Jersey’s Liberty State Park (Jonathan Ystad/GetEqual)|
Today Josh and Henry teamed up with Courage Campaign launching an effort to persuade their United States Senator Robert Menendez to join 29 other member of the Senate and become a co-sponsor of the DOMA repeal bill, the Respect for Marriage Act. Josh and Henry point out in their letter to the Senator that DOMA is tearing apart married gay and lesbian binational couples. Senator Menendez is an ally of the LGBT community and is the co-author of the comprehensive immigration reform bill currently pending in the Senate that includes a provision that would allow for the immigration of partners of lesbian and gay Americans and permanent residents, however he has not joined the fight for repeal of DOMA. Last week the President formally endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act and the Senate Judiciary Committee held its historic DOMA repeal hearing. It is time for every supporter of LGBT equality to stand up and fight for repeal of DOMA. Call Senator Menendez at 202-224-4744 and tell him about the hardship caused to you by DOMA.
Dear Senator Menendez,
We write as a married same-sex couple on behalf of ourselves and many other New Jersey families who are being denied equality, out of concern over a particular piece of legislation.
Sen. Feinstein has introduced S. 598, the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the odious “Defense of Marriage Act,” or DOMA. We know you are a supporter of equality for same-sex couples, Sen. Menendez. What’s more, as the lead sponsor of comprehensive immigration reform legislation that includes the Uniting American Families Act, you know that ending DOMA would eliminate the discrimination in immigration law that nearly forced Henry’s deportation, even though we are legally married.
It is therefore with surprise that we learned you are not one of the 29 Senators who publicly support the Respect for Marriage Act. As you know, Senator, this issue would permit the tens of thousands of same-sex couples — many of whom live in New Jersey — to have access to the over 1,100 federal rights and benefits to which heterosexual couples are entitled. These include Social Security benefits, health insurance, immigration benefits, tax provisions, and more. These benefits would strengthen New Jersey families by providing tools that help loving, committed couples and their families to take care of each other. What’s more, if the Respect for Marriage Act becomes law, this recognition would not stop when couples cross state lines — the lawful relationships of loving, committed same-sex couples could be recognized in all 50 states.
Through our Stop The Deportations project we’ve joined with other same-sex bi-national couples who are being denied immigration benefits due to DOMA. Many are facing the nightmare of deportation and separation because of DOMA. We hope it’s an oversight that you have not yet joined your colleague Sen. Lautenberg in co-sponsoring the Respect for Marriage Act, Sen. Menendez. We, along with supporters of equality across the country, look forward to your prompt reply.
Josh Vandiver and Henry Velandia
Gay City News: After Halting Deportation, Josh Vandiver & Henry Velandia Continue the Fight Against DOMA
See original article here.
CNN en Español Interviews Josh & Henry About Their Historic Victory After ICE Closes Deportation Proceedings
May 9, 2011
April 28, 2011
New York Times DOMA Editorial Highlights Josh & Henry’s Victory and Inequality Imposed On Lesbian & Gay Couples
One year after we launched the Stop The Deportations campaign, the New York Times publishes this editorial calling the Defense of Marriage Act “most overtly discriminatory laws in the nation’s history.”
Watch: MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts Interviews Josh & Henry About Their Historic Victory Ending DOMA Deportation
This interview originally aired June 30 when Thomas Roberts invited Josh Vandiver & Henry Velandia back into the MSNBC studio to discuss their historic victory after Immigration and Customs Enforcement agreed to close deportation proceedings against Henry. Josh and Henry were previously interviewed by Thomas Roberts on April 28 and on May 9. (h/t Equality Matters)
HISTORIC VICTORY: Immigration & Customs Enforcement Closes Deportation Proceedings Against Henry Velandia
|Josh and Henry have led the fight to stop the deportations of spouses of lesbian and gay American citizens|
Read our press release here.
Link to this article here.
(Photo: Jonathan Ystad)
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.
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.
See post on The Daily Beast. Thanks, Andrew!