“We are grateful that the government lawyers and the judge saw the humanity of our situation and respected our marriage,” Alcota and Ojeda said Tuesday in a joint statement. “This battle is not over. Our green card case is on appeal, and of course we will not have full equality until DOMA is gone.”
“Immigration Judge Terry Bain granted a Joint Motion to Administratively Close Removal Proceedings against Argentinean born lesbian, Monica Alcota, because ‘good cause has been established,'” reports the blog. “Monica Alcota’s lawyer, Lavi Soloway, submitted the request for Administrative Closure to ICE Chief Counsel in Manhattan on November 14. The request was based on her marriage to her U.S. citizen spouse, Cristina Ojeda; her deep roots in the community in which she lives and works; her activism against DOMA; and the absence of any adverse factors, i.e. that Monica Alcota is a hard-working, law-abiding person who is not a danger to the public safety or national security.”
The deportation proceedings ended when Immigration & Customs Enforcement attorneys agreed to the request for closure and signed onto what is called a Joint Motion to Administratively Close Removal Proceedings, marking the first such move since a November 17th Department of Homeland Security announcement of a joint national “working group” that would review all currently pending deportation proceedings.
“Importantly, this shows married lesbian and gay binational couples can be protected from deportation when ICE fairly applies its own guidelines, Alcota’s lawyer Lavi Soloway said in a statement on Tuesday. “By halting this deportation, ICE prevents a marriage from being torn part by DOMA, a law that the President and the Attorney General have determined to be unconstitutional and have refused to defend in Federal Court.”
Because the Defense of Marriage Act prevents same-sex couples from being recognized by the government, same-sex spouses are treated differently than opposite-sex spouses in deportation cases. The DOMA Project blog clarifies that, though the Homeland Security directive does not explicitly include same-sex couples in its language, but optimistic legal experts believe the current criteria can be applied to same-sex couples.
“We are thankful to Immigration & Customs Enforcement and to Immigration Judge Terry Bain for closing this case and stopping the deportation of Monica Alcota,” Soloway continued. “Although the Department of Homeland Security has declined numerous requests in recent months for specific, LGBT-inclusive guidance on deportation cases, this action demonstrates that existing guidelines that weigh “family relationships” and “ties to the community” can be properly applied to protect married lesbian and gay binational couples.”
“Monica and Cristina can now turn to the business of building a future together without living in constant fear of deportation,” Soloway concluded.
Advocates of same-sex bi-national couples have long pushed for the passage of the Uniting American Families Act, creating a legal system for American citizens to sponsor same-sex partners for citizenship through ‘permanent partner’ status.