Rush Holt to Homeland Security: Suspend deportations in same-sex marriages until DOMA is settled

Our immigration policies must work to unite families, not rip them apart.

      – Rep. Rush Holt, in letter to Secretary of Homeland Security

Rush Holt has appealed to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano not to apply the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to an immigration case involving constituents of his congressional district. DOMA, which Holt believes is unconstitutional, is jeopardizing the future of Holt’s NJ-12 constituent Josh Vandiver and his husband Henry Velandia. They were married last year in Connecticut, a  marriage equality state. Velandia is from Venezuela and came to the states on a visitor visa 9 years ago. Because of DOMA, he’s not eligible for the same kind of spouse visa that would be available to him in a marriage of opposite gender partners. He will be deported unless either DOMA is ruled unconstitutional or a bill challenging DOMA’s constitutional basis passes in Congress. Vandiver is an American citizen, Holt argues, and should receive the full rights granted to all citizens. That would include having his marriage recognized, rather than be singled out based on his sexual orientation. Holt says that’s exactly what’s happening as Vandiver is not being allowed to sponsor his husband for a visa.

The Obama administration’s position on DOMA has shifted; it will no longer defend DOMA. Holt notes the specifics of Attorney General Eric Holder’s new position on the much-hated law, and says he wants it repealed. Until that happens, Holt is asking Homeland Security to suspend deportation of all spouses of US citizens in same-sex marriages. Full text of his letter to Secretary Napolitano is after the jump.

Good on Holt.  

Full text of letter sent to Secretary Napolitano by Rep. Rush Holt:

March 31, 2011

The Honorable Janet Napolitano

Secretary of Homeland Security

U.S. Naval Security Station

3801 Nebraska Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C.  20393

Dear Secretary Napolitano,

I write to you today to ask that you work with me to immediately resolve a deportation case that illustrates the injustice and unconstitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.

One of my constituents, Josh Vandiver married his husband, Henry Velandia, in 2010 in the state of Connecticut, where same-sex marriage is legal. Henry is from Venezuela and came to the United States in 2002 on a visitor visa. However, as a result of DOMA, Henry is ineligible for a spouse visa and will be deported unless the courts rule on the unconstitutionality of DOMA or a bill passes in Congress challenging DOMA. As a U.S. citizen, Josh should receive the full rights granted to all citizens and should not be singled out based on his sexual orientation, which is what is occurring by not allowing Josh to sponsor Henry for a visa.  Our immigration policies must work to unite families, not rip them apart.

In a statement released on February 23, 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder said, “After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the president has concluded that, given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny. The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional. Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases.”  I could not agree more and support efforts to repeal DOMA.  In the interim, you must not apply this unconstitutional law to tear apart families.

In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security made the decision based on humanitarian grounds to put a moratorium on deportations of the widows of U.S. citizen husbands who were killed during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq before they received their green cards. In light of Attorney General Holder’s new guidance, I am asking you to suspend the deportation of all spouses of citizens in a same-sex marriage until a decision is reached on DOMA.  This is the right thing to do for Henry, Josh and countless others who are being victimized by this discriminatory and unconstitutional law.

I appreciate your expeditious consideration of this matter, and my thanks for your dedicated service to our nation.



Member of Congress

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