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.


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.

Married Gay Couple, Sean and Steven, Fights DOMA Deportation in NYC Immigration Court

Sean and Steven preparing this morning for tomorrow’s hearing

Tomorrow Sean and Steven will appear before a New York Immigration Judge to argue that Steven should not be deported to his native Colombia, where he has not lived for more than 12 years. (Read Sean’s original post here: “Eight Years After First Meeting, Sean and Steven Marry and File Green Card Petition, Joining Fight Against DOMA“).  In November 2011, Sean filed a green card petition for his husband on the basis of their marriage. Just a few days ago, the petition was denied by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services solely because of DOMA. The couple has filed an appeal of that decision.

Meanwhile, Steven has filed an application for cancellation of removal. Cancellation is a form of relief from deportation that results in a green card for a individual who has been present in the United States for more than 10 years, is of good moral character and can show that his deportation would cause extreme hardship to a “qualifying relative.” In this case, Steven argues that his deportation would cause extreme hardship to Sean. However, like Sean’s green card petition, the application for cancellation requires that the Immigration Judge recognize Sean as Steven’s spouse for all federal law purposes. Unlike Sean’s green card petition, the cancellation application directly implicates the Matter of Dorman, a case with similar facts still pending before the Board of Immigration Appeals. The U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, intervened last year in Matter of Dorman to ask that panel for a ruling as to whether the extreme hardship to a same-sex “partner” could be considered where a “spouse” could not be recognized due to DOMA, specifically in the context of a cancellation application. Sean and Steven will argue that this issue is as yet unsettled law and that no final decision should be made until it has been resolved. Sean and Steven are resolute that they will not be separated after 8 years. They join dozens of other couples who have demanded to be treated equally under the law, and who have joined the Stop The Deportations campaign.

Eight Years After First Meeting, Sean and Steven Marry and File Green Card Petition, Joining Fight Against DOMA

I am no stranger to injustice. I am black, gay, I came of age at a time when de-segregation had been fought for, and though not complete, had started changing society. Living through this upheaval and becoming well-adjusted as a double minority is not the sum total of my experience.  Coming to terms with being black and gay, I found myself in my fifth decade of life contending with a new identity as half of a binational gay couple.

This story about the newest realization and hurdle that life has thrown at me, and how my husband and I have chosen to fight back.  After a lifetime of learned self-acceptance and personal growth, I have come to find that my smooth coasting through middle age has hit a bump that has got me more than scratching my head.

My name is Sean Brooks. I am 44-years old and I live in New York with my wonderful husband, Steven. I am a musician and a DJ.  While I’m an American citizen, Steven came to the United States in the 1990s when his whole family moved here from Colombia. Our romance has been a whirlwind. I was never one to be in long-term relationships – much less married – but meeting Steven changed all that.

We met online in 2003, becoming friends at first, and started dating some months later.  By 2004 we were serious – were supportive of one another, it was all exciting, I was in love.  We moved in together in 2006, two years into our relationship, something that would have struck me as crazy (too soon!) before it actually happened. But being with Steven has been the most fulfilling and enriching experience of my life.  Every day we continue to live and grow into something more and more wonderful.  We knew we wanted to spend our lives together, though it was a gradual process of understanding how we would do that given the circumstances.

We were married at City Hall shortly after New York legalized same-sex marriage – about twenty of our friends and family were in attendance. Steven was so afraid of being open about our relationship (of being openly gay at all really) that when we started dating he wouldn’t even hold hands with me at a gay bar.  It was amazing to me that we were able to declare our love to one another with his twin brother at our wedding.  He had only come out to his brother and his mother a few months before our wedding. I am now a happily, legally married, gay man in the state of New York.

And this is where the problems start: Now that I am legally married by the state of New York, I started to wonder – for the first time – what does it mean, legally, for us to be married. I had never thought about the “benefits” of being married as relating to me, since I always knew that same-sex marriage was not an option until recently.  As I looked over a list of state vs. federal benefits, something stuck me as funny. Not funny – haha.  But funny in that – bad taste in your mouth – kind of way.  From what I gathered, as long as we lived (and died) in New York, he (or I) could have divorce rights, inheritance rights, and make medical decisions.

But none of that is as important to me as the right of my spouse to immigrate; and as of this writing our marriage means nothing on the federal level.  This got me thinking.  I cannot petition for Steven to have a green card like any other American can do in my situation, so what good is it to know that we are protected by state laws regarding medical decisions and inheritance rights? It makes a mockery of the victory of marriage equality to know that the most powerful government in this country, the federal government in Washington D.C., refuses to recognize our marriage because of the Defense of Marriage Act. They would just as soon deport Steven even though we have been together as a couple for seven years and we are legally married.

It seems to me that I have spent my whole life trying to not be a second-class citizen, but that effort has been quietly and insidiously trumped by becoming an “other-class citizen.”  While I haven’t felt “second-class” for decades (thanks Europe for opening my eyes that the world is big), but I have come to the unfortunate realization, once again, that I am still not a first-class citizen. I am not equal to all other Americans for the simple reason that I am gay. If I were, I wouldn’t have to type this. My legal husband would be applying for a green card just as if he were a she. Instead, I get to be reduced to the other-class: he could be taken from me and from our home by my own government. We are legally married, but he’s not able to immigrate. We live in a legal limbo. And why? No one can justify the way DOMA has created this insanely cruel reality for couples like us.

As a black, gay American married to man who is a citizen of Colombia I feel we have no choice but to fight for our rights. We live in historic times that present an important opportunity to raise awareness of this issue. Our President has rejected discrimination against gay couples, and refuses to defend DOMA.  He is also a black man whose parents were not only an inter-racial couple, but also a binational couple, something that is not always noticed.  If there was ever a time to persuade Americans how important it is to protect all LGBT families, including married gay binational couples, surely this is the time.

I have filed a green card petition for Steven and I will fight for my right as an American citizen to have it approved.

© The DOMA Project

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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.