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Posts for July, 2013

Florida Man’s Bulgarian Husband Approved for Green Card

Jim Burroway

July 1st, 2013

Traian Popov and Julian Marsh

Julian Marsh, a Florida resident, and his Bulgarian husband, Traian Popov, made history by becoming the first same-sex married couple to gain a permanent resident visa for a foreign spouse as a result of last week’s Supreme Court ruling striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. Popov was notified via email late on Friday that his green card was approved, in a move so fast that it took the couple’s immigration lawyer by surprise:

Speaking by telephone on Sunday from the couple’s home, Mr. Marsh said that he turned 55 on Friday and that he and Mr. Popov were celebrating with dinner at a Red Lobster restaurant when they received news of the unprecedented green card.

“It was just kind of a shock, like winning the lottery,” said Mr. Marsh, a music producer. “The amazing overwhelming fact is that the government said yes, and my husband and I can live in the country we chose and we love and want to stay in.”

Popov had been in the U.S. legally for the past fifteen years on a series of student visas. The couple married in New York last year and applied for a green card in February.

Officials at the U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services said that local immigration officers in Florida jumped the gun a bit in granting Popov permanent residency status, but I don’t see any indication that they will attempt to reverse the decision. Authorities said that the agency will announce new procedures for same-sex binational couples this week:

For the last two years, the agency has kept a list of same-sex couples whose green card petitions were denied, the officials said, anticipating that the Supreme Court would eventually weigh in on DOMA. Those denials will now be reversed without couples having to present new applications, if no other issues have arisen. Gay couples with no denials, like Mr. Marsh and Mr. Popov, will move through the system at the same pace as traditional spouses, officials said.

Rubio: “I’m Done” If Gays Included In Immigration Bill

Jim Burroway

June 13th, 2013

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), one of the so-called “gang of eight” Senators who crafted the bipartisan immigration bill in the Senate has said that he will withdraw his support for the bill if an amendment is approved that would allow gay people to sponsor their foreign spouses for residency.

“If this bill has in it something that gives gay couples immigration rights and so forth, it kills the bill. I’m done,” Rubio said Thursday during an interview on the Andrea Tantaros Show. “I’m off it, and I’ve said that repeatedly. I don’t think that’s going to happen and it shouldn’t happen. This is already a difficult enough issue as it is.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced an amendment which would allow foreign spouses of gay Americans to obtain green cards. He had originally introduced the measure last month during mark-up hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but withdrew it under pressure from both Democrats and Republicans when GOP lawmakers vowed to kill it if the amendment were approved. Some lawmakers are pinning their hopes on the Supreme Court, which is expected to issue its ruling in the next couples of weeks on the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing marriages of same-sex couples.

Gay Couples Excluded from Immigration Bill Markup

Jim Burroway

May 22nd, 2013

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, withdrew his proposed amendment yesterday to the comprehensive immigration bill which would have allowed gay Americans to sponsor their foreign partners, much as heterosexual Americans can sponsor their spouses. In the original version of the bill hammered out by a bi-partisan “gang of eight,” gay couples were excluded. Leahy offered his amendment saying:

“In the immigration context, if you’re an American and fall in love will someone of the same sex from a different country and you get married legally, your spouse will not be treated like any other immigrant spouse would be by your federal government,” Leahy said. “My amendments would change that. I don’t want to be the senator who asks Americans to choose between the love of their life and the love of their country.”

Other senators, however, were more than happy to force that choice. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), said:

“If you redefine marriage for immigration purposes [by the amendment], the bill would fall apart because the coalition would fall apart,” Graham said. “It would be a bridge too far.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein cited Graham’s comments, then, saying of Leahy’s amendment, “I think this sounds like the fairest approach, but here’s the problem … we know this is going to blow the agreement apart. I don’t want to blow this bill apart.”

She cited the fact that the Supreme Court could strike down the Defense of Marriage Act provision that prevents same-sex couples from having equal immigration rights in coming months. She also noted the a bill she is sponsoring to repeal DOMA is holding in the Senate, concluding, “I would just implore to hold up on this amendment at this time.”

Sen. Chuch Schumer (D-NY) described his efforts to convince Republicans to accept the provision:

Schumer, a member of the “Gang of Eight,” said he tried to persuade other senators to support the idea and believes current law is “rank discrimination,” but can’t bring himself to support the amendments because of Republican opposition.

“If we make the effort to add it to this bill, they will walk away,” Schumer said. “They’ve said it publicly, they’ve told me privately — I believe them. The result: no equality, no immigration bill. Everyone loses.”

Leahey withdrew the amendment about a half-hour later. He may propose the amendment again when the legislation reaches the Senate floor.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act sometime before the end of June. Section 3 prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed by those states that allow them.

GOP Leaders Threaten to Sink Immigration Reform If Gay Couples Are Included

Jim Burroway

May 2nd, 2013

In their bid to pick up Hispanic voters in the upcoming mid-term elections, GOP leaders have decided that passing immigration reform would help. Immigration reform has also been a goal of Democratic legislators as well. And so earlier this month, a bipartisan group known as the “Gang of Eight” came up with an immigration reform proposal which, presumably, both sides could support. Except large constituencies on both sides find that they won’t support it. The nativist, xenophobic wing of the GOP would rather see the whole issue die, and it would only be icing on their cake if they could blame immigration reform’s death on the Democrats. And since the immigration proposal as it stands excludes gay couples, Democrats find themselves at odds with a key constituency:

Gay advocates were sharply disappointed to find that same-sex couples were excluded from the legislation, since the Democrats who wrote it included two of their most consistent champions, Senators Charles E. Schumer of New York and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the second highest-ranking Senate Democrat. Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the Democrat who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, where the bill is under consideration, has offered, since as far back as 2003, a separate measure that would allow immigrants in long-term same-sex relationships to obtain residency with a green card.

But in the lengthy closed-door negotiations that produced the overhaul proposal, the four Republicans in the bipartisan group made it clear early on that they did not want to include such a hot-button issue in a bill that would be a challenge to sell to their party even without it, according to Senate staff members. The Republicans are Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona, and Marco Rubio of Florida.

…“There’s a reason this language wasn’t included in the Gang of Eight’s bill: It’s a deal-breaker for most Republicans,” Senator Flake said. “Finding consensus on immigration legislation is tough enough without opening the bill up to social issues.”

Sen. Mark Rubio (R-FL), who is being talked up as a possible Presidential contender in 2016, told a conservative talk radio host, ““If that issue is injected into this bill, this bill will fail. It will not have the support. It will not have my support.” Jonathan Rauch reacts:

Really? Republicans will deep-six the entire effort, and demolish themselves with Latino voters and business interests and young people in order to prevent gay people from having someone to take care of them?

Even to write those words is to wonder whether they can possibly be true. Surely Republicans know that, according to many polls, support for same-sex marriage has tipped above the majority level and is rising. Perhaps some also know that, according to a recent Huffington Post poll, partner immigration enjoys solid 7-percentage-point support. They certainly know that, from a political point of view, the perception among younger voters that a pro-Republican vote is an anti-gay vote is toxic to the GOP brand. …and Republicans themselves are split down the middle on the more general question of whether “same sex couples should have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples.”

Even among Republicans, in other words, the constituency for policies disadvantaging gay and lesbian couples is withering. And this is where Senate Republicans want to make their stand?

Changes To Immigration Policy Will Allow Some Same-Sex Partners Avoid Deportation

Jim Burroway

August 18th, 2011

From the Washington Blade:

The Obama administration unveiled on Thursday new immigration policy that could enable many undocumented immigrants facing deportation to stay within the United States — a move that could enable bi-national same-sex couples at the risk of separation to stay together within the country.

Under the new guidance, immigration authorities within the Obama administration will conduct a case-by-case review of the approximately 300,000 undocumented immigrants facing possible deportation to determine which cases are high priority and low priority. Those who have been convicted of crimes or pose a security risk will be a higher priority for deportation, while those who are deemed lower priority will be taken out of the pipeline.

…”The prosecutorial discretion memo provides for the use of discretion for people with strong community ties, with community contributions and with family relationships,” the official said. “We consider LGBT families to be families in this context.”

Chris Geidner at Metro Weekly also digs into the details.

Henry Velandia’s Deportation Put On Hold

Jim Burroway

May 6th, 2011

When we learned yesterday that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had vacated a deportation case involving an Irish man who had entered into a New Jersey civil union with an American, we wondered whether it would have any bearing on the case of Henry Velandia of Venezuela, who had legally married his American spouse in Connecticut in 2010 and whose deportation proceed was to take place this afternoon. We now have word that the judge in the case agreed with the government attorney to adjourn the case:

Speaking with (Lavi) Soloway, their attorney in this matter, after the hearing, he tells Metro Weekly the immigration judge adjourned the deportation proceedings, which will place the matter back on the “master calendar,” which is more of a status conference and, more importantly for Velandia and Vandiver, removes the “immediate threat” of deportation.

“The judge said at the outset that he wanted to deal with the question of whether the case should be adjourned before we discussed anything else,” he says. “Despite the fact that he had earlier twice denied our motions for continuance. At this time, he essentially reversed himself.”

Interestingly, the judge made a Xerox copy of yesterday’s Metro Weekly report discussing Holder’s decision a part of the official record.

Attorney General Holder Halts Deportation

Jim Burroway

May 5th, 2011

Attorney General Eric Holder today has taken the extraordinarily rare step of vacating a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals, a step which could affect a host of same-sex bi-national couples.

The Board of Immigration had ruled that Paul Wilson Dorman, a citizen of Ireland, was to be departed. Dorman had entered into a New Jersey civil union with an American partner. Under the Defense of Marriage Act, the Board of Immigration Appeals determined that Dorman’s partner was ineligible to sponsor Dorman for a Green Card. Holder ordered that the Appeals Board’s applying of DOMA to the case be vacated and be referred to the Attorney General for further review.

In a filing dated April 26 (PDF: 8KB/1 page), Holder directed the BIA to answer four questions:

In the exercise of my review authority under that regulation, and upon consideration of the record in this case, I direct that the order of the Board be vacated and that this matter be remanded to the Board to make such findings as may be necessary to determine whether and how the constitutionality of DOMA is presented in this case, including, but not limited to: 1) whether respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union qualifies him to be considered a “spouse” under New Jersey law; 2) whether, absent the requirements of DOMA, respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union would qualify him to be considered a “spouse” under the Immigration and Nationality Act; 3) what, if any, impact the timing of respondent’s civil union should have on his request for that discretionary relief; and 4) whether, if he had a “qualifying relative,” the respondent would be able to satisfy the exceptional and unusual hardship requirement for cancellation of removal.

What appears to make this particularly interesting is that this case involves a couple who have a civil union, and not a marriage contracted on one of the states which permits same-sex marriage. It is unclear at this time how this decision will impact the case of Josh Vandiver of Colorado and Henry Velandia of Venezuela. They were married in Connecticut and live in New Jersey, where Velandia is to appear before an Immigration board tomorrow for a deportation hearing.

Lavi Soloway, co-founder of Stop the Deportations and Immigration Equality, said, “This development could be a sign that the Obama administration is looking for a way to protect gay and lesbian binational couples who are currently barred from the regular marriage-based immigration process by the Defense of Marriage Act.” Solder is defending both Dorman’s and Velandia’s cases before the BIA in New Jersey.

In February, Holder announced that the Justice Department determined that DOMA could only be defended under heightened scrutiny, and that the Justice Department couldn’t defend DOMA’s constitutionality under that criteria. In March, the Justice Department advised the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Service that it should continue to enforce DOMA in processing applications for same-sex couples. This decision appears to be a remarkable reversal of that guidance.

Gay Ugandan Faces Deporation from U.S.

Jim Burroway

April 8th, 2011

San Diego-area friends and supporters of Joseph Bokombe have launched a petition drive imploring a U.S. immigration judge to grant Bokombe’s request for asylum. Bokombe overstayed his cultural exchange visa, friends say, because he was afraid to go home.

Those fears are well-founded. LGBT Ugandans have been subject to successive waves of anti-gay vigilante campaigns in the press and F.M. radio over the past several years. Ugandan LGBT advocate David Kato was murdered just three weeks after winning a court case against one tabloid which posted his photo under a headline reading “hang them!” That’s not the only worry. The draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which would impose the death penalty for homosexuality, remains a potent threat despite government assurances that the bill will not be voted on.

Under these circumstances, Bokombe’s friends fear for his safety should he be forced to return to Uganda.

[Awichu] Akwanya, a Ugandan native, said he believes Bokombe would face a similar fate. “Actually I don’t think even past the airport. They just get him and then put him in detention. In detention, he can get poisoned or [they will] hire some people in jail to kill him,” said Akwanya.

Those grim prospects led Hector Martinez to begin a petition drive to help Bokombe’s appeal for asylum. Bokombe volunteers at a church and for several local groups, including Mental Health America of San Diego County, which is the mental health non-profit Martinez works at. “He’s a part of our community and people care about him. He deserves to live freely,” said Martinez.

A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released this statement to KGTV television:

“Over the course of the last year, Mr. Bukombe’s immigration case has undergone extensive review by judges at multiple levels of our legal system. In those proceedings, the courts have held that he has failed to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States. ICE is now in the process of seeking to carry out the deportation order handed down by the immigration court.”

The petition currently has 258 signatures.

Immigration Resumes Deportation Procedures Against LGBT Spouses

Jim Burroway

March 30th, 2011

The hold on deportations of immigrant same-sex spouses of American citizens has been lifted:

“The guidance we were awaiting … was received last night, so the hold is over, so we’re back to adjudicating cases as we always have,” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services press secretary Christopher S. Bentley told Metro Weekly this morning.

…Asked if districts would be able to put cases on hold while awaiting a final court determination about the constitutionality of DOMA, Bentley said, “No. The guidance is the same policy that has always been in place,” which he said is to “enforce the law.”

Asked if that means applications of same-sex bi-national couples would continue to be denied now as they had in the past, Bentley said, “Correct, based on the enforcement of DOMA.”

Bi-National LGBT Immigrant Deportations On Hold

Jim Burroway

March 28th, 2011

That’s according to Metro Weekly, which just confirmed with a spokesman for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, that deportation cases of foreign partners who are married to a same-sex partner and would otherwise be eligible for a green card are on hold, pending questions about the continued validity of the Defense of Marriage Act:

He notes, however, “USCIS has not implemented any change in policy and intends to follow the President’s directive to continue enforcing the law.” The legal distinction means that although DOMA is still being enforced, the USCIS is using its discretion to hold off on denying green card applications where applicable.

Last month, President Obama’s Justice Department announced that they would only defend section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act under heightened scrutiny, which effectively means that due to the discriminatory nature of the act, the DoJ believes it to be unconstitutional. Section 3 holds that the Federal government is not required to recognize same-sex marriages at the state level. However, the federal government is free to establish alternative arrangements. For example, beginning in 2009, widows of U.S. citizens are no longer subject to deportations even though, by definition, they are no longer married to a U.S. citizen.

Catholics and Evangelical Hispanics: better no immigration reform than allow gay couples to stay together

Timothy Kincaid

September 14th, 2010

Because the US Government does not recognize same sex couples, there are many indignities suffered. Taxes are higher, there’s a special “gay tax” on health insurance, and there are over 1,000 laws that effect same-sex couples differently than opposite-sex couples. But the cruelest by far is when the federal government breaks up of long-term, committed, married same-sex couples and kicks one of the spouses out of the country.

Yet some of those who are advocating for immigration reform support this position. They so strongly wish to forcibly separate same-sex couples that they would rather give up one of their most important agenda items than allow for multi-national gay couples to be treated like heterosexuals. (WaPo)

“It introduces a new controversial element to the issue which will divide the faith community and further jeopardize chances for a fair and bipartisan compromise,” said Kevin Appleby of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which last year said the inclusion of gay couples in a House bill aimed at reuniting families made it “impossible” for the group to support the measure. “Immigration is hard enough without adding same-sex marriage to the mix.”

The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, a 16-million-strong group of evangelical Latinos that could play a key political role in an immigration overhaul, is similarly opposed to including provisions for gay and lesbian families. The president of the organization, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, said that including such a measure would prove to be the “death knell” for comprehensive change.

I have difficulty fathoming a moral code that includes deliberate and blatant cruelty. Surely these Catholics and Hispanic evangelicals are just so caught up in “fighting the homosexual agenda” that they have never asked themselves how they really want specific same-sex couples to be treated. Surely they do not actually wish for John Beddingfield and Erwin de Leon, a couple discussed in the article, to be forced to live apart.

Some day they will look back and be ashamed.

But in the meantime, there is a possibility for hope. The Obama Administration has not yet filed an appeal to Gill v. Office of Personnel Management or Massachusetts v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, the joint cases that found certain provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act to be in violation of the US Constitution. The filing deadline is October 11, and neither the Justice Department nor the White House have stated whether an appeal would be filed.

Should the Administration opt not to appeal, then married same-sex couples in at least the State of Massachusetts would have the ability to apply for citizenship consideration in the same manner as opposite sex couples. It would be – for many – a great hardship to relocate to Massachusetts, but for some desperate couples it could be a temporary solution.

AFA’s Bryan Fischer: Protestant Immigrants Good, Catholic Immigrants Bad

Jim Burroway

July 23rd, 2010

The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer has some reservations about the fact that some Evangelical conservatives support President Barack Obama’s immigration reform proposals. Those evangelical see Latinos, who make up the bulk of the expected beneficiaries of immigration reform, as being sufficiently anti-gay and, therefore, desirable future voters for socially conservative causes. Fischer disagrees:

Not so fast. According to the Christian Post, 57% of Latino Catholics in California support homosexual marriage. Let’s not forget that Latinos make up 36.6 percent of California’s population.

The good news, if you happen to be an evangelical, is that just 22 percent of Latino Protestants support gay marriage.

If getting pro-family illegals legalized is the goal, perhaps Dr. Land can be persuaded to amend his recommendation and give preference to Protestant illegal aliens.

Leave it to Fischer to suggest a religious test for entry to the U.S. The American Family Association, according to former AFA attorney Joe Murray, isn’t just anti-gay, but anti-Catholic as well.  This, of course, shouldn’t be too surprising. Where there’s one form of bigotry, there’s almost never a good reason to refrain from indulging in other forms as well.

Update: Details behind Fischer’s numbers are discussed here.

Immigration Reform Picks Up Evangelical Support

Jim Burroway

July 20th, 2010

Politico reports that President Barack Obama has picked up surprising support among some prominent Evangelical leaders for his proposed Immigration Reform bill. Some of those impressive names include Richard Land of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. Politico’sJosh Gerstein and Ben Smith note that the basis for some of that support among Evangelicals is that “immigration reform is practical or even desirable because Latinos subscribe to moral and religious values in line with social conservatives.”

But one key component of immigration reform is the Uniting Families Act, which would allow the foreign partner of same-sex couples the same opportunities for U.S. residency as the foreign partner of a heterosexual married couple. Will Obama’s chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel advise the President to throw out this important provision in order to “reach across the aisle”? Gerstein and Smith don’t really address this scenario except to call it an area of potential tension. When Obama took office, he promised to support “legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples.” But among many of the more politically active evangelicals, dropping the Uniting Families Act will be the price for this newfound support.

Congratulations Tim and Junior

Timothy Kincaid

June 4th, 2010

In 2005 Tim Coco, an American, and Genesio “Junior” Oliveira, a Brazilian, married in Massachusetts. But because some legislators value anti-gay discrimination more than they value civil rights or even the right of states to determine their own marriage laws, the federal government chose to ignore their legal marriage. In 2007 they were forcibly separated and Oliveira was sent back to his native Brazil.

Since that time Tim and Junior have been fighting to get Junior back to the states and have hit some bizarre roadblocks. At one point the immigration judge (who was later deemed to be a grossly unqualified political appointment) declared that Junior was not “physically harmed” by being raped in Brazil so he would grant no asylum.

But they also gained the support of Sen. John Kerry, who became an advocate for his cause. And while at first it appeared that the Obama administration was working against Tim and Junior, eventually US Attorney General Eric Holder, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano came to back them.

Now they have, for the moment, gained ground. (Globe)

On Wednesday, Oliveira returned to Massachusetts for an emotional reunion after federal immigration officials took the rare step of granting him permission to stay for one year on humanitarian grounds, clearing the way for him to try again for legal residency. His return followed personal appeals by Senator John F. Kerry, US Attorney General Eric Holder, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on their behalf.

I am delighted for Tim and Junior. And I pray that they are able to find a way for Junior to stay permanently.

And I am appreciative to John Kerry for his tireless work.

“Here were two people who loved each other and were as committed to each other as you could ever imagine, and a quirk in the law was being allowed to keep them apart. I just wanted to do everything I could to reunite them,’’ he said in a statement.

But, though it is hard to imagine, there are some who fight to keep Tim and Junior apart.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, criticized the move, saying it seemed unfair to grant a special exception for Oliveira when so many others, such as earthquake survivors in Haiti, are clamoring to get into the country.

Don’t be fooled. Krikorian knows that this is a different situation. He fully knows that unlike Haitian earthquake survivors, Junior is married to an American – a situation that would immediately be cause to allow him to stay if he were heterosexual – Krikorian knows that because Junior is gay that his life in Brazil is subject to oppression and discrimination.

Krikorian sees the pain of their separation. He knows their devotion. He just doesn’t care.

It’s hard to fathom the kind of hatred that is required to intentionally separate spouses. It’s hard to understand the man who sees pain and applauds. It’s hard to look at statements like those of Krikorian and not see evil.

Immigration Reform Proposal Includes LGBT Families

Jim Burroway

April 30th, 2010

The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld notes that the brief outline for immigration reform released by Senate Democrats includes a provision that would allow U.S. citizens and legal residents to sponsor their same-sex partners for residency. The provision is found on page 22 of the 26-page outline (PDF: 608KB/26 pages):

It (the proposal) will eliminate discrimination in the immigration laws by permitting permanent partners of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to obtain lawful permanent resident status.

The document is only an outline of what the Dem’s proposals would do. It is not a proposed legislative document. That still needs to be written. While the Obama administration would rather the Senate focus on finance reform, Senate leaders insist that there will at least be a vote in 2010.

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