With the recent ruling a few days ago by the US Supreme Court that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, President Barrack Obama directed federal agencies to implement policies consistent with the ruling. This includes immigration benefits for alien spouses in same sex marriages.
In accordance with this directive, Homeland Security Department Secretary Janet Napolitano immediately announced: “I have directed the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to review immigrant visa petitions filed on behalf of a same sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite sex spouse.”
Essentially, this means that for all practical purposes, even for non-immigrant visas, same sex marriage alien spouses will have the same equal benefits as opposite sex alien spouses: Working Visas, Investors Visas, Exchange Visitors Visas, Entertainers Visas, Religious Visas, etc.
In removal cases in Immigration Court, alien respondents who are the same sex spouses of US citizens may use their marital relationship as a defense utilizing it for various applications for relief from deportation (removal) when applicable.
Interspersed with joyful “Hallelujahs!” from the gay and lesbian communities throughout the United States are groans from conservative Christians of “The world must be coming to an end,” citing “Sodom and Gomorrah” biblical passages and various fear filled interpretations.
It might not be the end of the world but it certainly is the beginning of a new one. What the short and long term effects will be of this dramatic Supreme Court ruling not only on immigration but also on social, religious and other issues affecting American society – only time will tell. Many countries look up to the US as a model and will also be influenced by this development.
When I did the successful gay asylum case in court about three years ago for Philip Belarmino, a gay professor from the Philippines which hit the front pages of the world’s newspapers, it seemed unthinkable then that in due time, same sex marriages can be used to petition for spouses. It was almost impossible to win these gender based asylum cases. Now with all these legal immigration benefits for alien same sex marriages, the availability of defenses in Immigration Court for same sex spouses of US citizens will surely expand.
But it should be understood that immigration benefits will be available to same sex alien spouses of US citizens if their marriage took place in a state or country where same sex marriages are considered legal.
A nice gay US citizen man immediately consulted with me when he learned of Napolitano’s directive. He wanted his long-time boyfriend in the Philippines who could not get a visa to migrate to the US. When I explained that the new USCIS policy (re: same sex marriages) does not mean that he could marry his boyfriend in the Philippines and then file an immigrant visa petition for him, he was on the verge of crying. Such a marriage could not be used because same sex marriages are not legal in the Philippines.
But he came out of my office ecstatic and crying with joy when I told him that he could file a fiancée visa petition for his boyfriend. Under the new USCIS policies consistent with the Supreme Court decision and the directive of Secretary Napolitano, though yet untested, it is likely that the fiancée visa petition will be approved. If so, the boyfriend can come to the US in a few months and then they can get married here in California where same sex marriages are legal after which the guy would get his immigrant visa.
My client now goes around excitedly telling everyone I’m the best immigration lawyer in the world. I told him to hold off with his hosannas until we get his petition approved. But lawyers, doctors and other professionals should not be shy about their proven competence. Humility is not a virtue when it’s false and prevents one from helping people. On the other hand, I can’t even take good pictures with a point and shoot. But I am sincerely happy for him and others similarly situated whose lives will be enriched by this Supreme Court decision.
To gays and lesbians all over the United States, congratulations on this great victory. It will certainly affect the life of the nation and the personal lives of so many. May this major development be a real blessing, enhance true love in relationships, bring real happiness – and help in creating a better world for all. God loves all human beings.
Note: The California State Bar honors San Francisco based human rights lawyer Atty. Ted Laguatan as one of the best immigration lawyers in the US officially certifying him continuously for almost 25 years now as an Expert-Specialist on Immigration Law. Only 29 lawyers have been given this distinction. He also does accident injuries and wrongful death cases. For communications: (San Francisco area) 455 Hickey Blvd. Ste. 516, Daly City, Ca 94015; Tel 650-991-1154 Fax 650-991-1186 Email [email protected]