Monday, August 22, 2011

Lesbian Binational Couple Gets A Break

In a step that could mean reprieve for hundreds of binational same-sex couples across the nation, a judge has halted the deportation process for Sujey Pando, a Mexican national who was brought to the US at the age of 16 and then disowned by her family because she is a lesbian.  She is married to her longtime partner Violeta, having taken advantage of marriage equality in the state of Iowa.

She was due to be deported back to Mexico, an issue her siblings avoided because her parents obtained citizenship for them.  Due to her sexuality, the same steps were not taken to keep Sujey in the US.

The judge was acting on a directive published by the Obama administration last week in an attempt to prioritize deportations to keep non-threatening nationals from being kicked out of their adopted country.  Immigration has pledged to review the 300,000 deportation cases currently pending to ensure that the individuals being deported are a threat to the security and well-being of Americans.
In a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) today, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano explains that the case-by-case approach was first detailed in March 2010 and recently reiterated in a memorandum from June, 2011. She argues that the process will enhance public safety and allow immigration judges “to more swiftly adjudicate high priority cases, such as those involving convicted felons.” “This process will also allow additional federal enforcement resources to be focused on border security and the removal of public safety threats,” she argues. 
The new process is a result of a long-standing administration policy to ensure that the nation is “not clogging the system with folks who are not maximum priorities,” a senior administration official explained. Lower-priority deportation cases “are being set aside so we can focus more on our more serious cases of convicted criminals and other high priority categories.”
Pando's attorney, Levi Soloway, explains from his blog Stop the Deportations:
"Today Denver Immigration Judge Mimi Tsankov halted the deportation of Sujey Pando and scheduled a new hearing to consider an application based on her marriage to her U.S. citizen wife, Violeta Pando. Because today's hearing was intended to be a final decision day on Sujey's deportation, the judge's action was unusual; she spent 45 minutes methodically considering the procedural posture of the case. In the end, the Judge set aside the intended purpose of the hearing, citing developments including the Attorney General's intervention in a similar case in May (Matter of Dorman) and noted that the issues involved in this case existed in a context that was "fluid" and "in a state of flux." The Judge referred to events that occurred as recent as yesterday as having an impact on how to proceed. Yesterday, the DHS Secretary Napolitano ordered a review of all pending deportation cases for possible closure, including those involving LGBT families."
 So basically, the administration has set a precedent that confuses the issue enough that it is no longer crystal-clear that these undocumented immigrants require deportation.  Whatever the reason, Sujey and Violeta have much to celebrate.  Congratulations to them.

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