23 March 2012

Married same-sex couple succeed in fight against US immigration law

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A same-sex couple from California have succeeded in obtaining a halt to deportation proceedings and have been allowed to pursue legal avenues identical to those of an opposite sex couple, despite seemingly being in contrast to US immigration law.

US immigration

Same-sex marriage is recognised by several states in the US but DOMA prevents couples from receiving the same immmigration rights as heterosexual couples.

US immigration law permits a heterosexual couple to halt deportation proceedings against one partner while they apply for a Green Card providing the other is a US citizen yet Alfonso Garcia has succeeded in having a deportation order stayed in order to allow him to begin his own Green Card application.

Mr Garcia, who was born in Mexico but has lived in the US since childhood, and his long term partner Brian Willingham were both married in New York and also registered as domestic partners in California in 2011. However, Mr Willingham was prevented from sponsoring his husband for legal residency due to DOMA restrictions.

The controversial Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defines marriage as between a man and a woman and does not recognise same-sex couples for all federal purpose, including immigration. Despite many states now recognising same-sex marriage since DOMA's enactment in 1996, politicians remain reluctant to discuss its repeal or modification.

While the immigration judge in San Francisco insisted the decision was 'routine and unremarkable', LGBT activists are hailing the decision as a landmark success.

Mr Garcia and Mr Willingham's lawyer, Lavi Soloway, said their decision would have a large impact on the LGBT community's quest for equality:

"In the long haul, this will have a major impact on [bi-national] related cases."

Mr Soloway actively campaigns for equal standing for same-sex couples involved in deportation cases as well as separation and exile many couples risk under DOMA legislation.

Mr Garcia will now be allowed to apply for a Green Card before the next immigration hearing takes place in October.

The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.

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