Tag Archives: Immigration Equality

Fox News’ Van Susteren Defends Married Binational Gay Couple

11 Aug

Bradford Wells and his husband Anthony John Makk (photo by Noah Berger, Special to the SF Chronicle)

We posted the other day about the tragic story of Bradford Wells and Anthony John Makk, a binational couple being split up by our federal government. Makk, an Australian citizen has been with his American husband for 19 years. This week, the Obama administration made the decision to deport Makk who was legally married to Wells in Massachusetts in 2004.

In addition to being legally married, Makk is Wells’ primary caregiver through his AIDS treatment. Their heartbreaking story is making the rounds on the internet and was featured on CNN:

http://youtu.be/tgPV8pw05nk

And in this storytelling and sharing of the couple’s life, minds and hearts are being changed. Coming from an unlikely source, Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren took to her blog defending the couple in a post titled: “THIS IS CONFUSING: PRESIDENT OBAMA SENDING MIXED SIGNALS TO GAY AMERICANS”

One other personal, not legal, observation…these two men have been together 19 years….do you have any idea how many phoney applications are made by heterosexual foreigners who come to the USA, find a spouse (sometimes money is exchanged), marrying, getting a green card and then divorcing? It is a racket. We sure don’t try and stop those fraudulent relationships/marriages with any vigor. These two men, whether you are for or against, gay marriage, have been together 19 years (and yes, paying taxes!)

Of course the blog post is just a veiled attempt to attack President Obama and vilify him to the LGBT community, but the substance of it is clearly in support of protecting our rights. Minds can change so long as we continue to talk about equality.

UPDATE: After a little research, it seems Greta is talking out both sides of her mouth (which would be an accomplishment as she usually only uses one side). Greta invited John Boehner onto her show back in March to discuss Obama’s decision to stop defending DOMA in court. In the interview, she clearly sides with Boehner and claims that Boehner (in defending DOMA) is “doing the job that the Executive branch won’t do.” So this is just another case of someone using the LGBT rights movement as a political football. Either she believes that this couple should not be separated or she believes that DOMA should be the law of the land. Talk about mixed messages…

US Gov’t Rips Man Away From AIDS-afflicted Spouse

9 Aug

Bradford Wells and his husband Anthony John Makk (photo by Noah Berger, Special to the SF Chronicle)

After some legal wins in the cases of bi-national gay and lesbian couples, this devastating story comes out of San Francisco.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on Bradford Wells, a U.S. citizen, and Anthony John Makk, a citizen of Australia. The two were legally married in Massachusetts seven years ago and have lived together 19 years, primarily in San Fran’s Castro District.

On July 26th, the Obama administration made the decision to rip the couple apart and send Makk out of the country, citing the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. Makk must leave the country by August 25th.

What makes this story even more heartbreaking and cruel is that Wells is suffering from AIDS and his husband is his primary caregiver. Wells told the SF Chronicle:

“I’m married just like any other married person in this country,” Wells said. “At this point, the government can come in and take my husband and deport him. It’s infuriating. It’s upsetting. I have no power, no right to keep my husband in this country. I love this country, I live here, I pay taxes and I have no right to share my home with the person I married.”

As we reported here at the end of June, the deportation case of Henry Valendia was dismissed following a series of questions asked by Attorney General Holder regarding another deportation case. Those questions were the reason Holder vacated an earlier decision to separate a family by deportation.

Unfortunately, the judge in the case of the Wells-Makk family did not see the Obama administration’s decision to no longer defend DOMA as reason enough to stop this injustice. Please read the entire heartbreaking story at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Deportation Proceedings Dismissed in Same-Sex Marriage Immigration Case

30 Jun

Josh Vandiver (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

With marriage equality now a reality in New York, our next step is securing more state victories while at the same time – overturning the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). As we discussed here recently, there have been several challenges to the constitutionality of DOMA, including now 14 federal court cases finding the law to be unconstitutional.

Another battle which is loosening the Jenga pieces under this bigoted piece of legislation is the fight for immigration rights by bi-national couples. One such case that we’ve covered is that of Henry Valendia and Josh Vandiver, a legally married couple residing in New Jersey. Under DOMA, Valendia, a Venezuelan national, was denied legal residency.

Last month, AG Holder vacated a decision made by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). He followed up with four questions to the board:

In the exercise of my review authority under that regulation, and upon consideration of the record in this case, I direct that the order of the Board be vacated and that this matter be remanded to the Board to make such findings as may be necessary to determine whether and how the constitutionality of DOMA is presented in this case, including, but not limited to: 1) whether respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union qualifies him to be considered a “spouse” under New Jersey law; 2) whether, absent the requirements of DOMA, respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union would qualify him to be considered a “spouse” under the Immigration and Nationality Act; 3) what, if any, impact the timing of respondent’s civil union should have on his request for that discretionary relief; and 4) whether, if he had a “qualifying relative,” the respondent would be able to satisfy the exceptional and unusual hardship requirement for cancellation of removal.

While there is no news as to any answers received by AG Holder, some incredible news came to the Valencia-Vandiver family yesterday in the form of a dismissal by Jane H. Minichiello, the chief counsel at the Newark office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and arm of the Homeland Security Department. The judge granted the motion to close the case on June 13th and the couple’s lawyer, Lavi Soloway received official copy of the order yesterday. While the decision was confirmed, no further information on future similar immigration cases was given.

According to the New York Times, Mr. Valendia said: “I can start breathing now after so many months of fighting. I was holding my breath for fear of any moment being sent away.” he continued by saying the decision was a “big step forward” but did not address the continued problem of whether federal recognition of marriage equality would become a reality. “The fight isn’t over.” Valendia said.

Congratulations to the Valendia-Vandiver family and thank you for the work you’ve done in advancing equality.

Evan Wolfson, Founder and President of Freedom to Marry also commented on the government’s decision to dismiss these proceedings:

“Freedom to Marry applauds the U.S. government for bringing anend to this deportation process, which threatened to cruelly separate a couple who, like so many others, fell in love, made a lifetime commitment to one another, and got married – but because they are gay, were denied the normal family immigration protections afforded other married couples.  While this exercise of sound government discretion is most welcome, Josh and Henry, along with so many other families, should not be vulnerable to the unfair treatment or uncertainty caused by federal marriage discrimination against same-sex couples.  It is time for Congress to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and end the hardship and unfairness that burden the lives of loving and committed couples.”

UPDATE: Is DOMA Sinking? AG Holder Vacates Gay Deportation Case

5 May

While Organizations like ALL OUT and GetEQUAL are pushing to stop tomorrow’s deportation of Henry Valendia, thus tearing him away from his legal marriage with Joshua Vandiver, it seems Attorney General Eric Holder is taking further steps to discredit the ant-gay Defense of Marriage Act.

According to Chris Geidner at Metroweekly, AG Holder has vacated a decision made by a Board of Immigration Appeals decision.

Holder writes:

“Pursuant to my authority set forth in 8 C.F.R. § 1003.1(h)(1)(i), I order that the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“Board”) in this case applying Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), 1 U.S.C. § 7, be vacated, and that this matter be referred to me for review.”

Geidner continues:

Saying the attorney general “has taken [an] extraordinary step” with the decision, attorney Eric Berndt — the supervising attorney for the National Asylum Partnership on Sexual Minorities at the National Immigrant Justice Center — told Metro Weekly, “It adds some heft to our requests for prosecutorial discretion in individual cases in which the foreign partner” of a same-sex bi-national couple is seeking a green card because of his or her citizen same-sex partner.

Holder goes on to state four questions that he directs the BIA to consider:

In the exercise of my review authority under that regulation, and upon consideration of the record in this case, I direct that the order of the Board be vacated and that this matter be remanded to the Board to make such findings as may be necessary to determine whether and how the constitutionality of DOMA is presented in this case, including, but not limited to: 1) whether respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union qualifies him to be considered a “spouse” under New Jersey law; 2) whether, absent the requirements of DOMA, respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union would qualify him to be considered a “spouse” under the Immigration and Nationality Act; 3) what, if any, impact the timing of respondent’s civil union should have on his request for that discretionary relief; and 4) whether, if he had a “qualifying relative,” the respondent would be able to satisfy the exceptional and unusual hardship requirement for cancellation of removal.

This could be extraordinary news, considering Holder’s specific questions. It’s apparent from his requests to the BIA that state’s rights may be violated by DOMA, considering his mention of “New Jersey law.” Let us hope this is good news for Joshua and Henry (who is set for deportation tomorrow).

There is a rally scheduled for tomorrow in Newark from 11-12am – Department of Homeland Security/Newark Immigration Court – Peter Rodino Federal Building, 970 Broad Street, Newark, NJ. Please attend if you can and also please visit ALL OUT’s Petition to help stop this cruel punishment for a couple whose only crime was getting married.

***************UPDATE********************

According to Metroweekly’s Chris Geidner:

Attorney Lavi Soloway tells Metro Weekly that Henry Velandia’s deportation proceedings have been adjourned, in part, because of Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to vacate the Board of Immigration Appeals decision in another case involving a same-sex couple on Thursday. Moreover, Soloway says, “The government attorney agreed to adjourn the case.”

This is excellent news and proves that when we rally and get people to join together around something, we can win. Please keep this in mind and kep working hard when we ware called to action. We CAN make a difference!

Don’t Deport My Husband: An Update!

27 Mar

As many of you know, a few weeks ago, President Obama made the surprisingly exciting announcement that his Department of Justice would no longer be defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the courts. This decision was made after many lower courts had found DOMA to be unconstitutional. Obama framed his change of tactics around the amount of money the administration would spend on defending a law which judges were ruling against. Obama made sure to say that he would continue enforcing the law until it was overturned, but the court battles would no longer be defended by his administration.

The religious right and the National Organization for Marriage were in an uproar. They lied and claimed that Obama had overturned the law, or that he was no longer enforcing it. And the usual rigamarole ensued.

Now, we’re happy to find that despite the fact that DOMA has not yet been overturned, in at least one instance, it is no longer being used to attack gay and lesbian families. One of the rights we are fighting so hard for, which heterosexual married people frequently take for granted, is that married bi-national couples can stay in this country and that foreign-born citizens married to US citizens will gain citizenship through that marriage.

Joshua Vandiver and Henry Valendia

A few months ago, we told you the story of Josh Vandiver, a graduate student at Princeton, and Henry Velandia, a Venezuelan dance instructor who was facing deportation despite their 2010 marriage in Connecticut.

Now, Newsweek/The Daily Beast has learned that the heads of two USCIS districts—Washington, D.C. and Baltimore—informed attorneys from the advocacy group American Immigration Lawyers Association that cases in their districts involving married gay and lesbian couples would be put on hold. The news could have far-reaching effects. People like Velandia might be safe from deportation while their cases are on hold.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Henry and Josh will be together in the US permanently.

Jamaican Gay Murder Advocate Wins Grammy; 28 Gay Jamaicans Win US Asylum

14 Feb

It’s no secret that many Caribbean nations are overwhelmingly homophobic. In fact, just last night, Jamaican Reggae artist, Buju Banton won a Grammy Award – after he advocated burning homosexuals “like an old tire wheel,” and shooting “batty boys” in the head with an Uzi in some of his lyrics.

Gay murder advocate and Grammy Award Winning Jamaican Reggae Artist, Buju Banton

Speaking as someone who also suffered from an anti-gay assault in the Bahamas, it seems that homophobia is deeply rooted in the religious teachings in some Caribbean nations. In recent years, there have been dozens of hate crimes reported in St. Maarten, Jamaica, The Bahamas and others. In fact, in 2006, TIME Magazine dubbed Jamaica “The Most Homophobic Place on Earth.”

The hatred and ignorance is clearly out of control. And considering the recent murder of David Kato in Uganda and the halted deportation of Brenda Namigadde, it’s important to know that you can be safe in countries which don’t criminalize who we are. Immigration Equality is an organization which maintains the largest network of pro-bono attorneys, in addition to its in-house legal staff, dedicated solely to seeking asylum for Lesbians, Gays, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) asylum seekers. So it was good to hear from our friends at Immigration Equality that “An overwhelming number of the victories, 38, were for clients from the Caribbean, with 28 of those for individuals from Jamaica.”

Congratulations to those who won asylum to a place that at least doesn’t criminalize love. Let’s keep hoping for change in those countries where millions more fear their own murders daily.

DOMA Separates Families

5 Jan

Every day before he left for work, Richard Dennis would kiss his partner on the forehead as he slept, knowing each kiss could be their last.

Let that sink in.

That line comes from an AOL news article about Richard and his partner Jair Izquierdo, who was just deported back to Peru after immigrating to the US legally five years ago.  Every day the couple lived in fear that that day might come despite their having obtained a civil union in New York state. When the day finally came they hauled Jair off in handcuffs like a criminal.

You see, there simply is no civil protection for bi-national same-sex couples. Even in the six states that currently recognize same-sex marriage, for them, the threat of deportation looms large.

Take the story of Joshua Vandiver and Henry Velandia, a married couple in New Jersey fighting to stay together.

These Americans face the most blatant and cruel aspects of a federal government that refuses to recognize their relationships and callously rips them apart, all in the name of “protecting family values”.  For Richard and Jair the Defense of Marriage Act is no abstract concept. Jair might never be coming back to America.  No legitimate path exists under current law to bring them back together on American soil and that tragedy is all due to DOMA.

For many, Marriage Equality is a social justice issue. Many couples desperately need protections under the law such as the right to Immigration Equality.

The next time you have a conversation with anyone, gay or straight, that doesn’t support Marriage Equality tell them these stories. Ask them if their family deserves to be torn apart because of who they are.

Joshua Vandiver: Don’t Deport My Husband

22 Oct

Via Change.org comes this heartbreaking story of bi-national couples being torn apart by inequality.  Joshua Vandiver and his husband Henry Velandia have been together four years, and are now facing the harsh reality of immigration laws and marriage inequality.  But they are fighting back.

The couple has not taken this sitting down. Together, they hosted an event at Princeton to rally local support, spoke to their Congressional representative and  formed a Facebook page called “Save our Marriage – Stop the Deportation of Henry Velandia” that is gaining increasing support daily.

Show your support by signing the Change.org petition and joining their growing support base on facebook.  A great organization, Immigration Equality, works on this issue full time, and has a great database of bi-national couple stories.

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