Earlier this month, the Obama administration acquiesced to the demands of immigration reform advocates and announced that it would review all 300,000 active deportation cases to ensure that they are consistent with the nation’s enforcement priorities. The case-by-case review will allow the government to focus its resources and efforts on high priority targets — individuals who pose a threat to public safety and national security or repeat immigration law violators — while exempting low priority groups, including binational same-sex couples, from deportation.
Gay and lesbian Americans face additional complications because the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and prohibits couples who are legally married in one of the six states (and DC) that now allow marriage equality from petitioning the federal government for the same immigration benefits that are afforded to separate-sex relationships.
The legally married Dutch spouse of congressional candidate Mike Williams — who is running in Connecticut’s 5th district — may soon be a victim of the discriminatory policy, since he could face deportation after losing his job. Williams will be unable to sponsor his husband Bart Hoedemaker for permanent residency because their relationship has no status under federal immigration regulations:
“Most people don’t realize about DOMA, they think, well, you’re married in Connecticut, it’s fine, and they’re shocked to find out that it doesn’t matter,” said Williams. But no matter what the Administration does about enforcement, Williams cannot sponsor Hoedemaker for a green card — a right Williams’ sister will soon exercise on behalf of her Argentinian fiancé. Without a green card, not only could Hoedemaker’s status be subject to the whims of a new Administration or a Congressional action, he would not be eligible to work.
It’s unlikely that Hoedmaker’s case will qualify for review under the administration’s new policy, since the process only applies to cases already in deportation. And many more LGBT couples may be facing a similar fate. The Immigration Policy Center estimates that there are “approximately 36,000 same-sex binational couples living in the United States, and approximately half of these couples are raising children.” President Obama has yet to come out in support of full marriage equality, but he has endorsed legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. The so-called Respect for Marriage Act currently has 29 co-sponsors in the Senate and 121 supporters in the House.