In a Broken Immigration System, DOMA Adds Another Level of Injustice

A bi-national lesbian couple waits for an answer; DOMA holds their future hostage.

Abandoned as a child, abused, and mistreated, a young lesbian woman made her way from Mexico to the United States and built a life alongside the woman she loves. However, Mrs. Hernandez’s future (who asks that her full name not be used) now hinges on a decision from an immigration judge. But new prosecutorial discretion guidelines issued in June by John Morton, Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, could prove to be crucial for her future, as they offer opportunities for ICE attorneys to halt deportations that threaten to tear apart LGBT families solely because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

“It is absurd that someone like Mrs. Hernandez is facing deportation from her partner and the life they have built together, due to a traffic stop. This happens to thousands of families across the country as a result of increased local law enforcement collaboration with ICE. Unfortunately, DOMA makes our already broken immigration system even worse,” said Julien Ross, Executive Director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, “DOMA denies committed same-sex couples any rights in sponsoring their spouse, and often leaves their families with few options for changing their situation.”

Ross continued: “The real solution would be to recognize Mrs. Hernandez’s marriage and allow them the same rights as any other married couple under immigration law. But at the very least, ICE should follow their own guidelines on discretion and stop her deportation immediately.”

Mrs. Hernandez met her partner, a US citizen born and raised in Denver, and fell in love in 2006. They were married in Iowa in 2010. However, as a result of DOMA, their marriage is not recognized for immigration purposes and her partner is barred from sponsoring Mrs. Hernandez for legal status.

When Mrs. Hernandez was pulled over for a minor traffic violation in 2008, she was detained and spent nearly 3 months at an immigration detention center. Since that time, the couple has spent more than $20,000 on the legal battle to fight her deportation case and to have their marriage recognized and respected by immigration courts.

“No loving, committed couple should be torn apart by the laws of our country,” said Brad Clark, Executive Director of One Colorado. ” Mrs. Hernandez and her partner have made a lifelong promise to take care of each other, and their marriage should provide them with security to build a life together. But because of these unjust, discriminatory laws, their family hangs in the balance. That’s just plain wrong.”

A decision on Mrs. Hernandez’s case is expected on August 19th at the Denver Immigration Court. In the coming days, community organizations will be working to mobilize support. Please contact Julie Gonzales, Director of Organizing for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition at Julie@coloradoimmigrant.org, or Shannon Masden, Field Manager for One Colorado at Shannonm@one-colorado.org to get involved.