Gay couple Josh Vandiver and Henry Velandia say they’re relieved that a federal immigration judge has canceled Velandia’s deportation.
The New Jersey couple on Wednesday was informed that Velandia’s deportation proceedings had been closed.
Velandia, a citizen of Venezuela who immigrated to the United States in 2002, married Vandiver, 30, in Connecticut last year.
Previously, the couple was told that because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples, the United States would not recognize the couple’s marriage and would not allow Vandiver to sponsor his husband for citizenship, as a U.S. citizen in a heterosexual marriage would be allowed to do.
“I can start breathing now after so many months of fighting,” Velandia, 27, a salsa dancer, told The New York Times. “I was holding my breath for fear of any moment being sent away.”
The couple’s attorney, Lavi Soloway, cheered the news.
“This action shows that the government has not only the power but the inclination to do the right thing when it comes to protecting certain vulnerable populations from deportation,” Soloway told the Times.
The action underscores the Obama administration’s evolving approach to DOMA. In February, the administration decided it would no longer defend the law in court because officials believe the law is unconstitutional, prompting House Republicans pick up where the Department of Justice had left off. Since then, the administration has taken an increasingly narrow interpretation of the law.
According to Soloway, the government dropped the case because Velandia’s deportation “is not an enforcement priority at this time.”
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