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Attorney General Vacates Immigration Ruling Over DOMA Questions

Attorney General Eric Holder has vacated a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals which could have important implications regarding the inequalities faced by binational same-sex couples under DOMA.

Holder Lavi Soloway at Stop the Deportations notifies us, in an email:

In a cancellation of removal case involving a same-sex couple in New Jersey, the Attorney General of the United States has vacated a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals and remanded the case for a new ruling.  Specifically, the AG has asked the BIA to rule on whether a same-sex partner could qualify as a spouse under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

"This development could be a sign that the Obama administration is looking for a way to protect gay and lesbian binational couples who are currently barred from the regular marriage-based immigration process because of DOMA," said Lavi Soloway, co-founder of Stop the Deportations and Immigration Equality. "This is precisely why we must continue to advocate for the executive branch to implement administrative remedies and keep couples from being torn apart, including instituting a moratorium on deportations.  The heart-breaking stories of couples facing deportation have raised the profile of this issue, but we must keep the pressure on. Tomorrow, another New Jersey couple faces an Immigration Judge at a final deportation hearing in Newark.  We will ask the Immigration Judge to adjourn proceedings in light of today's action by the Attorney General."

Earlier today, Towleroad's legal expert Ari Ezra Waldman wrote about immigration law and DOMA with regard to the pending immigration case of Josh Vandiver and Henry Velandia, for whom there is a rally tomorrow in Newark.

Says Ari of Holder's decision:

"Today's guidance from Attorney General Holder is most welcome, especially to the families who would otherwise be unjustly torn apart by a misapplication of DOMA. Holder lays out specific factors immigration officials should consider when addressing the deportation of the gay foreign national spouses of American citizens. The Obama Administration has thus signaled that it is willing to look at valid same-sex unions as one of many reasons to stop or delay deportations in these cases. This is exactly the kind of guidance we need. Without these specific rules on what factors to consider, lower level executive branch bureaucrats have so much latitude, and that latitude lets them make mistakes and hide behind a bloated DOMA. Perhaps now, Mr. Velandia will not be unjustly deported on the whims of a few low level bureaucrats."

Read Holder's order, AFTER THE JUMP...

Chris Geidner at MetroWeekly has responses on the implications of Holder's order from Immigration Equality's communications director, Steve Rall and Eric Berndt, the supervising attorney for the National Asylum Partnership on Sexual Minorities at the National Immigrant Justice Center.


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  1. Amazing! How refreshing to have an openly pro-gay administration at last!

    Posted by: BABH | May 5, 2011 4:49:26 PM

  2. Let this not be another false dawn, becuase believe it or not stopping the deportations of legally married same sex couples will be the yardstick by which we judge the seriousness of Obama's commitment to the gay community.

    Posted by: yonkersconquers | May 5, 2011 4:54:48 PM

  3. Babh: When did we get one of those?

    Posted by: Michael | May 5, 2011 5:32:15 PM

  4. The Metro Weekly article that Andy provides a link to is fascinating. Read this quote from Immigration Equality, the leading activist organization fighting for marriage equality as it pertains to immigration:

    "Immigration Equality's communications director, Steve Ralls, writes, "This seems to be a step in the right direction. I have little doubt that the recent, significant Congressional pressure on DOJ, led by Senator Kerry and Congresswoman Lofgren, played a key role in Holder's decision."

    Fortunately for the cause of marriage equality, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts and the Democratic congresswoman from California were both reelected in 2008.

    Posted by: Phil | May 5, 2011 8:41:21 PM

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