Exclusive: Rep. Nadler to propose immigration equality for bi-national same sex couples

By David Edwards
Wednesday, March 23, 2011 16:19 EDT
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Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) is fighting for the rights of bi-national gay and lesbian couples who could otherwise be torn apart by deportation proceedings.

Nadler Communication Director Ilan Kayatsky told Raw Story Wednesday that the congressman was planning on re-introducing the Uniting American Families Act — legislation that aims to provide immigration equality to bi-national same sex couples.

News of Nadler’s plan comes a day after Immigration Judge Terry A. Bain halted deportation proceedings against Monica Alcota, a citizen of Argentina, while her wife, Cristina Ojeda, moves forward with a green card petition on her behalf.

It was the first time a married same sex couple had successfully argued that a pending deportation should be halted based on the Obama administration’s decision to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

“In light of these developments, Judge Bain’s decision to stop deportation proceedings and allow Monica Alcota and Cristina Ojeda to seek recognition of their marriage was the right, necessary, and just thing to do,” Nadler said Wednesday.

“Our immigration laws protect families by allowing spouses of United States citizens to remain in the country. No family or committed couple should be needlessly torn apart while we work to bring a final end to this shameful law,” he added.

Kayatsky said that Nadler had been introducing related legislation for over ten years.

“He got interested a while back when he found out about and met couples who fell into that category — one partner was from another country and because they were barred from being legally married, they could not sponsor the foreign partner for immigration purposes just like straight couples can,” he explained.

“It struck him as a gratuitously cruel and unnecessary part immigration law — something that probably wasn’t foreseen when the immigration laws were being drafted and that really served no purpose in federal law. It simply discriminated against gay and lesbian couples and punished families and committed couples, which is precisely the opposite of how federal law should be envisioned.”

With the administration’s decision to no longer defend DOMA, Nadler anticipates even more challenges to deportation proceedings, Kayatsky said.

“There’s a big chink in the wall now that the court has declared DOMA is unconstitutional and the Department of Justice has agreed,” he continued.

“For the congressman and for people on this side, it’s really disappointing that Republican leaders of the House rushed into the matter, announcing their intention to defend DOMA in court… and they did so without really taking a fresh look at the facts,” Kayatsky added.

Nadler has already re-introduced the Respect for Marriage Act — to completely undo DOMA. Kayatsky expected him to re-introduce the Uniting American Families Act “soon.”

David Edwards
David Edwards
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
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