Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Your Husband Will Be Deported Tomorrow

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | May 05, 2011 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Action Alerts, Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: All Out, binational same-sex couples, Courage Campaign, DOMA, Garden State Equality, GetEqual, Henry Velandia, ICE, Immigration Equality Action Fund, Josh Vandiver, Marriage Equality USA, Out4Immigration, Princeton Equality Project, Stop the Deportations, UAFA


MetroWeekly: Attorney General Holder Vacates Immigration Decision Based on DOMA The Velandia case has been stayed until mid-summer.

Imagine that your beloved were being deported tomorrow. Velandia.jpg

He is not being deported because he is a criminal, or entered the country illegally, or for any valid reason, other than the fact that the Government decided that your marriage was not worth recognizing.

How would you feel?

On Friday, Henry Velandia of Venezuela, beloved husband of Josh Vandiver of Colorado, will stand before a Judge of the United States in Newark, New Jersey, who will likely tell him that, despite his legal marriage, despite their love, he is banished from the United States forever.

On Friday, LGBT organizations from across the country will rally behind this gay bi-national couple who will endure deportation hearings, facing the stark reality of still living under the Defense of Marriage Act. The Obama Administration has said it cannot defend DOMA in court because it is unconstitutionally discriminatory based on sexual orientation. It has also said that deportations should focus on criminals. And yet, here is the Obama Administration continuing to tear apart families, who have committed no crime, in the name of an unconstitutional law. President Obama, don't you remember?

In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, a host of organizations will stand up and be heard -- including Stop the Deportations, GetEqual, All Out, Courage Campaign, Garden State Equality, Immigration Equality Action Fund, Marriage Equality USA, Out4Immigration, Princeton Equality Project, and Queer Rising -- to make clear that these deportations of LGBT spouses must stop immediately.

Please come to the rally, please sign the petition, please be heard. Video and press release after the jump.

Here is the press release from GetEqual:

LGBT Organizations Urge Obama, Stop Deporting LGBT Spouses

LGBT Community Rallies In Support Of Gay Bi-National Couple Facing Separation Due To Deportation

NEWARK, NJ -- On Friday, LGBT organizations from across the country will rally behind a gay bi-national couple who will endure deportation hearings, facing the stark reality of living under the Defense of Marriage Act. In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, GetEQUAL working with a host of other LGBT organizations -- including Stop the Deportations, All Out, Courage Campaign, Garden State Equality, Immigration Equality Action Fund, Marriage Equality USA, Out4Immigration, Princeton Equality Project, and Queer Rising -- to make clear that these deportations of LGBT spouses must stop immediately.

The rally outside the Newark Federal Courthouse is taking place as Josh Vandiver of Colorado and Henry Velandia of Venezuela face deportation hearings before the court. Despite legally marrying in Connecticut in August 2010, Vandiver (a Ph.D. student at Princeton University) and Velandia (a salsa dancer, instructor, and founder of a Princeton-based dance studio) are facing a nightmare scenario -- being ripped apart from one another at the hands of the U.S. government.

Due to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal government doesn't recognize same-sex marriages, which discriminates against same sex couples. As a result, Josh cannot sponsor Henry for a green card unlike all straight married couples in the same situation. A loving, legally married couple, are now at risk of being torn apart with Henry's potential deportation looming on May 6.

Josh and Henry became tireless advocates for LGBT bi-national couples in the United States, all the while fighting to stay together and save their own marriage. Last fall they launched the "Stop the Deportations" campaign to raise awareness to the cruel impact that DOMA has on married same-sex couples and to challenge DOMA in immigration court proceedings.

"I never intended nor wanted to be an activist. I have to do what is necessary to save our marriage and to keep the man I love in this country," says Josh, reflecting on their seven month campaign. "On May 6 Henry could be ripped away from me, but that doesn't have to happen. The Obama administration can immediately stop the deportations of spouses of gay and lesbian Americans. This would ensure that Henry and I aren't torn apart."

Their predicament and that of tens of thousands of other LGBT couples was thrust in to the spotlight again in March after the Obama administration declared they would no longer defend DOMA in the courts. Despite hopes that this would mean the federal government would cease deporting LGBT spouses, the administration continues to enforce DOMA tearing families apart despite President Obama's continued assurances that his administration is only prioritizing criminal deportations.

"These men are going through what no couple in America should have to go through, choosing between love and country" said Robin McGehee, director of GetEQUAL. "Henry and Josh a loving couple. America is better than this, and I urge President Obama and Secretary Napolitano to act now! Save this relationship and stop deporting our families."

Note: Jillian Weiss is a member of the Board of GetEqual.

1st image via Save Our Marriage, video via YouTube from GetEqual

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I think it's great that GetEqual is protesting, I think it's great that people are trying to change the law here for the better, I hope people attend, etc.....

But that first paragraph and the title, well, as a person who's 1/2 of a same-sex, binational couple.... It seems like the community doesn't have a great way of talking about these issues. For me, it wasn't my partner who was going to be deported, it was me who had the visa issues. Lots of visa issues. While France has the PACS, it's not an equivalent of marriage when it comes to immigration, and, yeah, for a while there I was having problems. Not as many as my sister-in-law, who's German who wants to live with my brother in America, of course, since the US has an even stricter system when it comes to immigration, but enough for us to feel like we should completely give up at certain moments (and, of course, the problems aren't over as I have to re-apply for a visa every year).

With that in mind, I remember a conversation with Alberto about this, where he just said that the fundamental issue here is that France is a country that likes to believe that it's modern, liberal, and open to everyone but it's filled with racists and nationalists and lots of lukewarm people (who don't even know how their own immigration system works), so it can't be open to everyone.

That stuck with me because it's true. Every adult person should have the right to live in whichever country they choose. In the US, the problem is even more complicated with the employers who want to keep the immigration system the way it is, with a large number of easily exploitable workers who are in the country without papers. That's not to say that we don't have our own jingos and racists and lukewarms who haven't examined the issue too, but the money makes the system harder to challenge.

I agree with the thrust of your post, but I really can't tell myself that the only reason I was going to be sent back to the US is because the government didn't recognize our relationship, since that would mean I would have to believe both that my ability to live in a country should depend on my ability to produce something for that country and that me making Alberto happy is the only thing of value that I have to offer.

Anyway, it bothers me that I have to go downtown each year with Alberto now to report that we're still in a relationship with one another so that I can stay in the place that has become my home. What if we break up? Am I then less deserving of being here if the relationship doesn't work out for whatever reason? What kind of pressure would that put on this relationship if times got rocky? What kind of power does that give Alberto, who wouldn't have to pack up his bags and move to the other side of the world if we get into a bad fight?

Fortunately, I don't have to think about the bad times right now, things are going great. But I'm not going to pretend that if I ever needed to walk out on him the threat of deportation wouldn't make me think twice.

Alex, I agree in principle that "every adult person should have the right to live in whichever country they choose." Our system, both in the US and globally, hasn't been that way for a long time. I'm not sure what kind of a very different world I'd have to imagine that would have open borders, but we sure aren't close. In the meantime, "marriage" is a key that we have that opens our borders to love. Marriage equality means opening our borders to Henry and Josh, and the federal government needs to recognize that, as imperfect as it is.

I'll also add, to piggyback on Alex's points, that the post and the title - and the general community discourse - positions same-sex couples within a framework of "love" and "commitment," against those defined as "criminal" and/or "illegal." This ignores the fact that it is in fact incredibly easy to become a criminal under US immigration law - minor infractions are escalated into felonies quite easily, for instance. And I'm not addressing the issues I have with the criminalisation of immigrants and how badly we do in any conversation around immigration in this country.

No one deserves to be in this country simply because they're in a relationship and, inevitably, surely it's a fact that everyone in a binational relationship is compelled to "choose." I agree it would be easier if people at least had the choice to live in either country, or travel between each at their will. I would like the gay community to genuinely commit to the idea of open borders so that such choices are open to everyone, which it does not do because it is much too nervous about upsetting the status quo and has bought into the idea that relationships are the only legible avenue for immigration.

Again, there are the realities we work with but there are also the ideals we could just as easily keep committing ourselves to and working on.

I've reported on this matter several times in the past few months, and this piece in particular has some interesting details about the realities of binational immmigration which a lot of people may not be aware of:


Which is to say: even those in binational couples ought to know that the solution is not as simple as: get rid of DOMA or end deportations temporarily, and stay in the country. And we'd do best to acknowledge that not everyone in such relationships will be able to stay under the frameworks supported by the very community that claims to speak on their behalf.

This reminds me that my own update on this is a bit overdue...

Good points, as usual Yasmin. I agree, and yet -- here we are in a situation where one half of a gay couple is getting deported whereas that wouldn't happen to a straight couple. Yes, the immigration system is screwed up and needs to be reformed, and...they need to stop pawing at Velandia and playing with him like a cat plays with a mouse.

The two cases are really similar, correct?

It appear so on the surface, but lower court judges often feel free to ignore developments like this, and it may take an emergency appeal to get a stay of the deportation.

IPDATE Depotatipm stayed on Velandia case. More to follow