Immigration News: Federal Government Sued by Lesbian Couple

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SUED BY LESBIAN COUPLE

On July 12, 2012, a lesbian couple in California filed a suit against the U.S. government over an immigration issue that was apparently the result of the Defense of Marriage Act, or "DOMA", passed in 1996. Jane DeLeon has filed the suit with the Federal court in Santa Ana on behalf of her 26 year old son, her wife and other gay couples facing similar immigration issues. The case is now pending in the California Central District Federal Court.

The problem that DeLeon faces is that her marriage to her wife is not recognized due to DOMA. The union is not recognized as a green card marriage, either. Apparently due to DOMA, the couple is now facing the deportation of Jane DeLeon back to her country of origin.

Jane DeLeon, a citizen of the Philippines, moved to the U.S. over 20 years ago. When she came to the U.S., she arrived as the common-law partner of a man. Immigration was not an issue for her at this time. Jane DeLeon married her female partner in 2008. At the time of their union, same-sex marriage was legal in the state of California. Since then, Proposition 8 was passed and same-sex marriage was once again not recognized as legal marriage in the state of California. Jane DeLeon was informed by immigration officials that she could no longer legally reside in the U.S. Jane DeLeon has lived with her partner, Irma Rodriguez, for over 20 years. DeLeon suffers from a medical condition that will likely worsen if she is forced to travel. Complicating the situation is DeLeon's son, Martin Aranas. Jane DeLeon had her son as the result of a previous marriage. When Martin was nine years old, he came to the U.S. to join his mother. Now, the 26 year olds citizenship is dependent upon his mother's immigration status.

Because, according to current immigration laws, DeLeon is in the country illegally, she now stands to be deported back to the Philippines. Her son is likely to be deported, as well. It is unclear why the son's immigration status is still dependent upon his mother's immigration status because he has been in the country now for about 15 years. If she were married to a man, however, DeLeon and her son would not be facing deportation.

DeLeon and her son remained in the country legally for years as they awaited permanent immigration visas. However, complications arose because DeLeon used the name of her common-law spouse when she originally came to the U.S. DeLeon was required to obtain an I-601 waiver from U.S. immigration officials. DeLeon reported that she had made several attempts to obtain the necessary waiver but was denied at every turn.

The federal suit challenges DOMA as the issue that is complicating the immigration status for DeLeon. A prior complaint in attempts to obtain the waiver puts forth the argument that returning to her country of origin would place undue hardship on DeLeon, as well as Irma Rodriguez. DeLeon's partner, Rodriguez, suffers from hypertension and her medication is not available in the Philippines. The suit also argues that the Philippines is, at times, a hostile environment of LGBT couples.

On November 9, 2011, the U.S. Immigration Department once again denied DeLeon's requests. At this time immigration officials cited DOMA as the reason the request was denied. As the request was denied, DeLeon's temporary citizenship status was revoked and she was notified that she must leave the country within 12 months. Failure to do so would result in her being prohibited from entering the U.S. for the next 10 years. The issue is not one of a green card marriage because the same-sex marriage is not recognized as a legal union.

DeLeon's lawsuit claims that DOMA violates equal protection guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment and violates due process, as well. The suit calls for those similarly affected to be granted relief and that applying DOMA in such cases is unlawful. The lawsuit also requests a temporary injunction requesting that immigration officials be prohibited from removing those in same-sex marriages from the country or denying them the ability to obtain gainful employment.

DeLeon, Rodriguez and Aranas are represented by Peter Schey. Schey is an attorney with the "Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law" in Los Angeles. Schey states that he hopes that the suit will cause the administration to find that DOMA, as applied in such cases, is unconstitutional. This finding would bring relief to those facing similar immigration issues.

This case is actually one of many similar lawsuits filed by same-sex couples where one member of the couple is facing deportation.

Last reviewed on: 08/11/2012
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