A New York woman who immigrated from Argentina scored a court victory Tuesday with her wife in their efforts to halt deportation proceedings against her.
Government lawyers have agreed not to deport Monica Alcota, a citizen of Argentina, while her wife, Cristina Ojeda, proceeds with a green card petition on her behalf.
The two have been together since 2008, and were married in Connecticut in 2010. Ojeda filed a marriage-based alien relative petition on behalf of her wife in September 2010, according to Towleroad.
It’s the first time a married same sex couple has 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).
Rachel Tiven, the Executive Director of Immigration Equality, said earlier this month that the DOMA decision created “a new opportunity for families facing separation or who are separated.”
Her group represents LGBT individuals and their international partners who, because of DOMA, are not entitled to the same benefits (like a green card) under federal immigration law as straight couples.
“Today’s decision in the Alcota case is exactly the right one,” Steve Ralls, Immigration Equality’s communications director, told Raw Story Tuesday. “It is a logical conclusion that, if DOJ believes DOMA to be unconstitutional, spousal petitions for LGBT partners should no longer be denied.”
“Immigration Equality has called on DHS and DOJ to hold all such applications until DOMA’s constitutionality is ultimately settled by the courts,” he added. “Families should not be torn apart, and American citizens should not have to be separated from their loved ones, because of a law which the government believes cannot hold up under legal scrutiny.”
Ralls said Immigration Equality is working with a number of other couples preparing spousal petitions and that “today’s ruling gives all of them hope that the days of forced separation are coming to an end.”
“It definitely brings us more hope,” Ojeda told The Advocate, shortly after the hearing. “It’s the first time someone has been willing to let us pursue our case and believes that we should be treated equal.”
Lavi Soloway, an attorney who represents Alcota and Ojeda, told Raw Story that he agreed the ruling was promising sign for other couples.
“What it demonstrates for other couples is that the system has within it the flexibility to deal with the changing landscape of DOMA,” he said. “It does not mean that the laws have changed. It does not mean that DOMA is not in effect. It simply means that executive branch agencies have prosecutorial discretion and can take into account sympathetic humanitarian circumstances and the overarching priority of family unification in determining how to proceed with deportation cases.”
“It’s very promising and it’s a very important achievement today,” Soloway added.
— With earlier reporting by Megan Carpentier
Photo credit: Lavi Soloway