U.S. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, January 17, 2013
CONTACT: Ian Koski at 202-224-4216

Senator Coons urges halt to deportation of foreign-born same-sex spouses until Supreme Court rules on marriage equality

Senator urges Obama Administration to temporarily delay decisions on immigration cases involving LGBT couples until the Supreme Court clarifies constitutionality of DOMA

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and an original co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act to repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), sent a letter with 11 of his colleagues Thursday to Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano urging them to temporarily put on hold immigration cases involving permanent resident status and deportation orders regarding same-sex foreign-born spouses of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples until the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of DOMA later this year.

Currently, federal immigration benefits do not extend to same-sex couples under DOMA, which places undue hardship on these families, who could earn relief if the high court invalidates the statute. Already, first and second circuit federal appeals courts have deemed DOMA unconstitutional, as has the Obama administration, whose policy is to no longer defend DOMA in the courts. 

“We urge DHS to hold marriage-based immigration petitions in abeyance until the Supreme Court issues its ruling on same-sex marriage,” the senators wrote. “Holding these cases in abeyance for a few months will prevent hardship to LGBT immigrant families.  We also call upon the Department of Justice to institute a moratorium on orders of removal issued by the immigration courts to married foreign nationals who would be otherwise eligible to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident but for DOMA. By taking these interim steps, vulnerable families affected by DOMA can remain together until the Supreme Court issues its decision.” 

DOMA currently prohibits federal immigration benefits for bi-national LGBT couples, including the ability of a U.S. spouse to petition on behalf of a foreign-born spouse for a permanent resident visa. As a result, officials have consistently denied same-sex couples’ applications, leaving many in immigration limbo without legal status, in fear of separation from their loved ones and potential deportation.

To ensure that foreign-born LGBT spouses would be able to remain with their families in the U.S. and be allowed to work and freely travel during the time leading up to the Supreme Court verdict, the Senators urged Homeland Security Department to “hold in abeyance” bi-national LGBT couples’ immigration petitions and applications and called on the Justice Department to issue a moratorium for deportation cases involving bi-national LGBT couples who would be eligible for U.S. residency if DOMA is invalidated.

Senator Coons was joined on the letter Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). 

Full text of the senators’ letter is below:

January 17, 2013

Dear Mr. Attorney General and Madam Secretary:

We continue to applaud the President for his decision not to defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (‘DOMA’) in federal court. We also applaud the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for including “long-term same-sex partners” under the Administration’s policy that suspends deportations of some immigrants who pose no security risk. These developments are steps in the right direction, but DOMA is still the law of the land and continues to discriminate against a class of Americans.

Following the 2012 election, there are now nine states and the District of Columbia recognizing same-sex marriage with several other states granting similar rights. However with DOMA as law, we are creating a tier of second-class families in these States. DOMA prevents same-sex immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens from applying for permanent resident visas. Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court has granted certiorari in Windsor v. U.S. and will determine the constitutionality of DOMA in the next term; by June we will know whether or not applications for lawful permanent residence for lesbian and gay spouses will ultimately be approvable.

Given the historic nature of Windsor v. U.S., we urge DHS to hold marriage-based immigration petitions in abeyance until the Supreme Court issues its ruling on same-sex marriage. Holding these cases in abeyance for a few months will prevent hardship to LGBT immigrant families.  We also call upon the Department of Justice to institute a moratorium on orders of removal issued by the immigration courts to married foreign nationals who would be otherwise eligible to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident but for DOMA. By taking these interim steps, vulnerable families affected by DOMA can remain together until the Supreme Court issues its decision.

Preserving family unity is a fundamental American value and is the cornerstone of our nation’s immigration law.  Thank you for your decision not to defend the constitutionality of a law that hurts so many families and for your consideration of this request. 

Sincerely,

 

Tags:
Department of Justice
Immigration
Supreme Court
Marriage Equality
Letter
Equality
Judiciary Committee
LGBT
Defense of Marriage Act
Respect for Marriage Act
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