Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hopes For Binational Couples Dashed As Discriminatory Policy Returns

Despite the good news from earlier in the week, the federal government has now re-affirmed it's policy of applying immigration law in a discriminatory fashion towards married binational same-sex couples.

The New York Times reports:

On Monday, Christopher S. Bentley, the chief spokesman for the immigration agency, confirmed in a statement that cases nationwide involving married gay couples had been suspended. What Mr. Bentley did not say was how long that hold might last and what issues the agency was seeking to clarify. 
But the elated reaction among gay advocates and couples was immediate. Describing Mr. Bentley’s statement as “a darn big deal,” Rachel B. Tiven, the executive director of Immigration Equality, called it “the first domino to fall” for gay American citizens with foreign spouses. 
Ms. Tiven said she understood that immigrants in married gay couples could now apply for green cards and instead of being automatically denied, their cases would be suspended until the courts decided the validity of the marriage act. 
Word also went out across the country. In Princeton, N.J., Josh Vandiver and Henry Velandia, in the middle of a public forum on immigration issues, embraced and cheered. They said they had heard from their immigration lawyer that the agency’s announcement might mean at least a temporary reprieve from deportation for Mr. Velandia. 
Mr. Vandiver, 29, is an American citizen and a political science graduate student at Princeton. He and Mr. Velandia, 27, who is from Venezuela, were married last August in Connecticut, one of the states that recognize same-sex marriages. Their application for a green card for Mr. Velandia was recently denied, and he is facing deportation as early as May. 
But on Tuesday, Mr. Bentley issued a new statement, saying that Citizenship and Immigration Services “has not implemented any change in policy and intends to follow the president’s directive to continue enforcing the law.” 
Mr. Bentley said the agency’s field offices had suspended cases for a short period, perhaps a week or two, while lawyers clarified a “narrow legal issue” concerning the marriage act. He said the agency would probably resume action on same-sex marriage cases in coming days and would continue to deny immigration status to foreigners based on those marriages. 
Immigration lawyers tried on Tuesday to sort out the meaning of the events. 
“We have to be very cautious,” said Lavi S. Soloway, a lawyer who represents Mr. Velandia and Mr. Vandiver. He said gay couples should continue to understand that “if they file for immigration status, they may be putting themselves at considerable risk of deportation.”
If you are in a binational relationship or need more information about the effects of immigration law on LGBT people, I urge you to check out the Immigration Equality (and Immigration Equation Action Fund) website. (Full disclosure: MadProfessah is on the board of directors of Immigration Equality and the Immigration Equality Action Fund.)

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