Lawmakers and advocates for same-sex couples facing immigration difficulties because the Defense of Marriage Act prevents recognition of their relationships say that "written guidance" is needed to ensure that the administration's policy of considering those relationships in making deportation decisions is followed.
The comments from a Homeland Security spokesman to BuzzFeed on Thursday that a foreign citizen's "same-sex marriage or other longstanding relationship to a United States citizen" would be considered by the department as being among the types of "family ties" that the agency uses to decide not to pursue deportation cases were met with support from advocates and lawmakers.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, however, had sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano earlier this week asking for such a policy, if it exists, to be put into writing.
Responding to Thursday's report, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said today, "It’s a welcome development that a DHS spokesperson is explicitly and publicly acknowledging that DHS’s consideration of family ties includes same-sex couples and spouses. We look forward to the written guidance that we expect would be a logical next step."
Lavi Soloway, founder of Stop the Deportations and a lawyer who has represented several binational same-sex couples in deportation cases and in green-card applications, agreed.
"Yesterday’s announcement acknowledging the marriages of gay and lesbian couples is a giant step forward honoring the struggle of thousands of loving couples who are subject to DOMA’s most punishing consequences," Soloway said in a statement.
He added, though, "The Administration should issue clear guidance memorializing this announcement without delay so that all families can be protected under a clear, consistently applied prosecutorial discretion policy."
Although BuzzFeed requested a copy of any policy implementing this decision, the only policy to which BuzzFeed has been directed by any DHS officials is a 2011 policy that makes no mention of same-sex couples.
Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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