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Kerry seeks to aid lesbian bi-national couple

With expiration of student visa, woman faces deportation to Pakistan

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Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is seeking to aid a married lesbian couple in his state by asking the Department of Homeland Security to take administrative action to ensure the foreign national in the relationship won’t be deported to Pakistan.

In a redacted letter dated March 27 and obtained last week by the Washington Blade, Kerry asks Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to hold in abeyance the I-130 marriage-based green card petition for the couple until the Defense of Marriage Act is overturned either by Congress or the courts.

“I know that you and I both believe that every family is worthy of recognition and respect, and that no family should be torn apart based on a discriminatory law,” Kerry writes. “Abeyance will allow this remarkable young couple to move forward with their dream of building a life together at home in Massachusetts.”

Gloria (right) and Jackie could be faced with separation if their green card application isn't placed in abeyance. (Photo courtesy Stop the Deportations)

The couple is using their first names only, Gloria, a Pakistani national, and Jackie, who are both 24 and reside together in Beverly, Mass. The two met as roommates in college in 2008 and their shared Christian faith brought them closer. After falling in love, they married in Massachusetts in October.

But Gloria’s student visa expired after she could no longer afford tuition and had to stop attending school last year, ending her legal status in the country and putting her in a situation where she could be deported to Pakistan.

In March, Jackie filed a marriage-based green card petition to sponsor Gloria for residency in the United States. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services has yet to make a decision on the petition, but it will likely be denied unless it’s held in abeyance because DOMA prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

Their attorney, Lavi Soloway, co-founder of Stop the Deportations and partner at Masliah & Soloway, redacted their last names in the letter he gave to the Blade, saying he did so at their request out of concern for their safety and safety of family members overseas. He also declined to disclose the school they both attended.

Recalling that the Obama administration has determined DOMA was unconstitutional and stopped defending the anti-gay law in court, Kerry writes this announcement last year left many same-sex couples “wondering how that will apply to their pending cases” and enables an opportunity for action.

“Among those harmed by the discrimination enshrined in law by DOMA are many of my constituents in Massachusetts who face separation from husbands, wives, grandparents, grandchildren, extended family, colleagues and community,” the senator says.

Kerry writes that the case of Gloria and Jackie “clearly justifies” action because of the potentially harsh treatment Gloria would face if sent back to Pakistan. Homosexuality is a crime punishable by jail time there and Christians have been known to face persecution in the country.

“She is certain that if she is forced to return to Pakistan, her life will be in danger, not only because of her sexual orientation and her marriage to a United States citizen, but for religious reasons as well,” Kerry writes.

It’s not the first time Kerry has asked the Obama administration to take action to stop the separation of bi-national same-sex couples. In April 2011, Kerry led a group of 12 senators who signed a letter to Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security asking that the marriage-based green card petitions for these couples be held in abeyance.

In a phone interview, Gloria said she and her spouse “feel very frustrated” they face this situation that wouldn’t be before them if they were an opposite-sex couple. She said she believes the effort will be worthwhile if “some positive outcome could come out of all this work that we’re putting into it.”

Additionally, Gloria said she dreads the prospect of having to return to Pakistan and face persecution because of her religious beliefs and sexual orientation.

“That would be just a devastating situation,” Gloria said. “We don’t even want to think about it. We have built our lives together here in America and our home is here. Our friends and family, and everything that we’ve built together is here.”

In a statement, Jackie also expressed frustration that DOMA precludes her from protecting her spouse and that the Obama administration hasn’t yet taken action to protect married bi-national couples.

“It hurts, as an American, to think that my government causes me and my wife so much distress by allowing DOMA to do so much harm,” Jackie said. “It is not what I expected of President Obama; I expected more. My wife and I met in college over three and half years [ago] and plan to continue building our lives together. Part of our future will now be this fight for full equality.”

Jackie added that coming out publicly with their story wasn’t an easy decision because they fear it may mean backlash for Gloria’s family in Pakistan  — as well as for Gloria if she’s forced to return to the country.

“But we will not stand by helpless while our marriage is treated as nothing by the federal government,” Jackie said. “I know that our president in his heart does not want to do harm to our marriage, and I am disappointed that he’s letting this happen when he has the power to stop it.”

Soloway said the president’s opposition to DOMA should be “matched with deeds,” and that halting the denial of marriage-based green card petitions would be consistent with the administration’s stated belief that same-sex couples shouldn’t be forced to make a choice between staying together and staying in the country.

“The president has an opportunity to develop policy that protects all LGBT families impacted by DOMA,” Soloway said. “He must now act to save Jackie and Gloria and thousands of lesbian and gay bi-national couples who, just like them, want nothing more than to be able to live their lives in peace.”

LGBT rights supporters have repeatedly asked the Obama administration to hold the marriage-based green cards for bi-national same-sex couples in abeyance on several occasions, and each time, officials have responded that they’ll continue to enforce DOMA while it’s on the books.

According to The Advocate, LGBT groups met with White House officials in January to discuss the possibility of putting the green cards in abeyance and administration officials told the advocates that such action wouldn’t be taken.

Peter Boogard, a DHS spokesperson, expressed a similar sentiment when asked by the Blade to comment on the Kerry letter.

“DHS responds directly to members of Congress, not through the media,” Boogard said. “Pursuant to the attorney general’s guidance, the Defense of Marriage Act remains in effect and the executive branch, including the Department of Homeland Security, will continue to enforce it unless and until Congress repeals it, or there is a final judicial determination that it is unconstitutional.”

While the administration hasn’t taken action to hold the marriage-based green card applications in abeyance, it has said it would include bi-national same-sex couples as part of an effort announced in August to take low-priority cases out of the deportation pipeline by granting them prosecutorial discretion.

The criteria for being taken out of the deportation pipeline include a person’s ties and contributions to their community and family relationships, and administration officials have said these criteria are inclusive of LGBT families and same-sex couples. An informed source said individuals whose I-130 is denied because of DOMA typically don’t receive a notice to appear for deportation hearings in court, unless there are additional derogatory factors.

But Soloway said whether Gloria will be placed into deportation proceedings is hardly the point if her green card application is denied because she’s “vulnerable to deportation every day.”

“She can be placed into proceedings simply because her immigration status as a foreign student has lapsed,” Soloway said. “Her school was required to report her to Immigration Services when she was no longer enrolled as a student. Every night, Jackie and Gloria go to sleep not knowing if their luck will run out. Will tomorrow be the day on which Gloria comes into contact with an overzealous police officer who stops and questions her and takes her into custody when her immigration status is discovered?”

Soloway also said holding the green card application in abeyance is the only way for Gloria to remain in legal status to enable her to hold a job or maintain a valid driver’s license.

“She cannot support herself and build a stable and secure future with Jackie as any other married couple would,” Soloway said. “She is trapped and can never leave the country because if she does she will be prohibited from returning. This untenable situation is the result of DOMA, and would be mitigated if their green card case were simply held in abeyance.”

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New York

Gay man shot to death on NYC subway train

Police say shooting was random and unprovoked

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Daniel Enriquez (Photo courtesy of the NYPD)

A gay man became the latest victim of a New York City subway shooting on Sunday when police say a male suspect shot Daniel Enriquez, 48, in the chest in an unprovoked random act inside a subway car traveling from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

Police on Tuesday arrested Andrew Abdullah, 25, who they identified as the sole suspect in the shooting, after attorneys representing him from the Legal Aid Society attempted to arrange for his surrender, according to a report by NBC 4 News in New York.

Police said the shooting occurred around 11:42 a.m. while the train was traveling over the Manhattan Bridge. The then unidentified suspect walked off the train and disappeared into a crowd of people when the train stopped at the Canal Street station minutes after Enriquez lay dying on the floor on the train car, police said.

Possibly based on the viewing of images from video surveillance cameras, police sources told the New York Times that investigators identified the suspect as Abdullah whose last known residence was in Manhattan, as a suspect in the fatal shooting. NYPD officials released two photos of Abdullah and appealed to the public for help in finding him.

Adam Pollack, Enriquez’s partner of 18 years, told both the Times and the New York Post that Enriquez took the subway to meet his brother for brunch. According to Pollack, Enriquez previously had taken Ubers into Manhattan, where he worked and socialized, from the couple’s home in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn. But in recent weeks the cost of taking an Uber rose dramatically to more than $80 for the round-trip fare, prompting Enriquez to begin taking the subway, Pollack told the Times and Post.

“I don’t love the subway,” the Post quoted Pollack as saying. “I know how dangerous New York is. It took me two years to get back on the subway. I don’t feel safe on the subway,” he said.

The fatal shooting of Enriquez took place six weeks after another gunman identified as Frank R. James began shooting inside a crowded rush-hour subway car in Brooklyn, injuring at least 23 people.

Pollack told the Times his partner was a native New Yorker who worked as a researcher for the Goldman Sachs investment bank in Manhattan. Enriquez was the eldest of five children and a beloved uncle known for taking his nieces and nephews for ice cream in local parks and out to amusement parks when he visited them, Pollack told the Times.

When asked by the Washington Blade if any evidence has surfaced to indicate suspect Abdullah targeted Enriquez because he thought Enriquez was gay, a police public information officer said the investigation into the incident was continuing.

“There’s nothing on that now,” the officer said. “Everything, the motive, and all of that stuff, is part of the investigation and that is still ongoing. So, there’s no comment on that yet.”

The Times reports that court records show Abdullah, who is now in police custody, was charged along with others in 2017 in an 83-count indictment for alleged gang related activity. The following year he pleaded guilty to criminal possession of weapons and other charges in 2018 and was sentenced the following year to a prison term and released on parole several months later.

According to the Times, he faced new gun charges in 2020, was charged in 2021 with assault and endangering a child, and in April of this year was charged with possession of stolen property and unauthorized use of a vehicle.

“We are devastated by this senseless tragedy and our deepest sympathies are with Dan’s family at this difficult time,” Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon said in a statement.

Andrew Abdullah (Photo courtesy of the NYPD)
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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge blocks White House from ending Title 42

Advocacy groups say policy further endangered LGBTQ asylum seekers

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The Mexico-U.S. border in Mexicali, Mexico, on July 22, 2018. A federal judge in Louisiana has blocked the Biden administration from terminating Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention policy that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the pandemic. The previous White House's policy was to have ended on May 23, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the pandemic was to have ended Monday, but it remains in place after a federal judge blocked the Biden administration’s plans to end it.

The White House last month announced it would terminate Title 42, a policy the previous administration implemented in March 2020.

U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays in Louisiana on May 20 issued a ruling that prevented the Biden administration from terminating the Trump-era policy. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a statement announced the Justice Department will appeal the decision, while adding the administration “will continue to enforce the CDC’s 2020 Title 42 public health authority pending the appeal.”

“This means that migrants who attempt to enter the United States unlawfully will be subject to expulsion under Title 42, as well as immigration consequences such as removal under Title 8 (of the U.S. Code),” said Jean-Pierre.

Advocacy groups and members of Congress with whom the Washington Blade has spoken since Title 42 took effect say it continues to place LGBTQ asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups who seek refuge in the U.S. at even more risk.

Oluchi Omeoga, co-director of the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project, last month described Title 42 as a “racist and harmful policy.” ORAM (Organization of Refuge, Asylum and Migration) Executive Director Steve Roth said Title 42 “put asylum seekers in harm’s way in border towns and prevented them from seeking safety in the United States.”

Title 42 was to have ended less than a month after five members of Congress from California visited two LGBTQ shelters for asylum seekers in the Mexican border city of Tijuana.

The Council for Global Equality, which organized the trip, in a tweet after Summerhays issued his ruling described Title 42 as a “catastrophe.”

“The Biden administration cannot breathe a sign of relief until it’s a matter of the past,” said the Council for Global Equality on Saturday. “We remain committed to end Title 42.”

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U.S. Military/Pentagon

U.S. Army considers allowing LGBTQ troops to transfer from hostile states

Proposed guidance remains in draft form

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Top Army G-1 officer & enlisted advisor speaking with Joint Base Lewis-McChord single and dual military parents (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

A draft policy is circulating among top officials of the U.S. Army that would allow soldiers to be able to request a transfer if they feel state or local laws discriminate against them based on gender, sex, religion, race or pregnancy.

Steve Beynon writing for Military.com reported last week the guidance, which would update a vague service policy to add specific language on discrimination, is far from final and would need approval from Army Secretary Christine Wormuth. But if enacted, it could be one of the most progressive policies for the Army amid a growing wave of local anti-LGBTQ and restrictive contraception laws in conservative-leaning states, where the Army has a majority of its bases and major commands.

“Some states are becoming untenable to live in; there’s a rise in hate crimes and rise in LGBT discrimination,” Lindsay Church, executive director of Minority Veterans of America, an advocacy group, told Military.com. “In order to serve this country, people need to be able to do their job and know their families are safe. All of these states get billions for bases but barely tolerate a lot of the service members.”

This policy tweak to the existing Army regulations pertaining to compassionate reassignment would clarify the current standard rules, which are oft times fairly vague.

A source in the Army told Beynon the new guidance has not yet been fully worked out through the policy planning process or briefed to senior leaders including the Army secretary or the office of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

“The Army does not comment on leaked, draft documents,” Angel Tomko, a service spokesperson, told Military.com in an emailed statement. “AR 600-100 and 600-200 establish the criteria for which soldiers may request for a compassionate reassignment. The chain of command is responsible for ensuring soldiers and families’ needs are supported and maintain a high quality of life.”

A base member wears rainbow socks during Pride Month Five Kilometer Pride Run at Joint Base Andrews, Md., June 28, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valentina Lopez)

The Crystal City-based RAND Corporation had published a study on sexual orientation, gender identity and health among active duty servicemembers in 2015 that listed approximate six percent of LGBTQ troops are gay or bisexual and one percent are trans or nonbinary.

A senior analyst for RAND told the Washington Blade on background those numbers are likely much lower than in actuality as 2015 was less than four years after the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and prior to when the Trump administration enacted the trans servicemember ban in 2017, which has had a chilling effect on open service.

The Biden administration repealed the Trump ban.

Another factor is that the current 18-24 year old troops colloquially referred to as “Gen Z” are much more inclined to embrace an LGBTQ identity and that would cause the numbers to be higher than reported.

Also factored in is uncertainty in the tweaking of policy in light of the recent leak of the draft U.S. Supreme Court decision that would effectively repeal Roe v. Wade.

According to Military.com it’s unclear whether the Army’s inclusion of pregnancy on the list would protect reproductive care for soldiers if Roe v. Wade is overturned. That language could be intended to protect pregnant service members or their families from employment or other discrimination, but could also be a means for some to argue for transfers based on broader reproductive rights.

One advocacy group pointed out that the current wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation will negatively impact the moral of service members:

“What we’re seeing across the board is a small group of elected officials who are trying to politicize and weaponize LGBTQ identities in despicable ways. They’re not only doing that to our youth, but the collateral damage is hurting our service members,” Jacob Thomas, communications director for Common Defense, a progressive advocacy organization, told Military.com. “[Troops] can’t be forced to live in places where they aren’t seen as fully human.”

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