Senators urge gov’t to accept green card applications from same sex couples

By David Edwards
Thursday, April 7, 2011 15:33 EDT
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Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) is calling on the Obama administration to stop denying green card applications submitted by same sex bi-national couples.

The Massachusetts senator and 11 of his Senate colleagues sent a letter (.pdf) to the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice Wednesday asking them to hold applications in abeyance instead of rejecting them while the courts litigate the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

“Specifically, we ask the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to hold marriage-based immigration petitions in abeyance pending a legislative repeal or a final determination on DOMA litigation,” the senators wrote.

“In addition, we ask DHS to exercise prosecutorial discretion in commencing and prosecuting removal proceedings against married noncitizens that would be otherwise eligible to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident but for DOMA. We also call upon the Department of Justice to institute a moratorium on orders of removal issued by the immigration courts to married foreign nationals who would be otherwise eligible to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident but for DOMA.”

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said last week that it would accept green card applications from gays and lesbians with spouses from abroad.

But after only one day, the USCIS reversed itself, saying it would continue to deny applications, in spite of the Obama administration’s decision last month that it would no longer defend the DOMA in court.

The administration said, however, that the law would continue to be enforced pending action by Congress or a final determination by the courts.

DHS spokesman Adam Fetcher told Metro Weekly that the department would respond to the senators directly.

“Pursuant to the Attorney General’s guidance, the Defense of Marriage Act remains in effect and the Executive Branch, including DHS, will continue to enforce it unless and until Congress repeals it or there a final judicial determination that it is unconstitutional,” he said.

Steve Ralls, director of communications for Immigration Equality, welcomed the senators’ letter.

“Yesterday’s letter is a request from the Senators that DHS take action to halt green card denials,” he told Raw Story in an email Thursday. “While the letter will not immediately change DHS policy, we are hopeful that it will compel the Administration to reconsider its recent decision reversing the temporary abeyance for applications filed by LGBT couples.”

“Immigration Equality believe it is imperative that DHS return to a policy of abeyance immediately,” Ralls said. “Holding green card applications is a simple, and small, task that we know is attainable because DHS has enacted similar holds, in other situations, in the past. LGBT couples should not be punished under a law the Administration knows is unconstitutional.”

Last month, 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 DOMA.

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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