Photo: Gay Couple Married in 2011 Fights to Stay Together as One Faces Deportation
Undocumented Mexican immigrant Alfonso Garcia, who married a U.S. man - Brian Willingham - in New York in 2011, this week will attend a hearing to try and halt his deportation while he pursues a petition for legal residence based on his matrimonial union.
Willingham, a 37-year-old Missouri native, and Garcia, 35, have been together for more than a decade.
At the hearing on Thursday in the U.S. Immigration Court in San Francisco, the couple’s attorney, Lavi Soloway, will ask that the deportation proceedings be deferred in accord with the request for legal residence that Willingham presented for Garcia due to their marriage and which is still pending.
According to a communique from Students Working for Equal Rights, Garcia was placed in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on July 1, 2011, after a routine traffic arrest during which his undocumented status was discovered.
The Mexican was in jail and in different detention units, including one in the Arizona desert, for more than three weeks. Willingham finally secured his release, but the government began deportation procedures against Garcia.
Soloway told Efe that although this case would fall under the new ICE discretionary policy because the Mexican does not represent a danger to society, his clients want to be treated like any other married couple.
“Sure, the new immigration directives apply in this care, but we want to put an end to discrimination,” said Soloway, who has represented couples in similar situations all over the country.
According to Soloway, a heterosexual couple in this situation would receive a postponement or even the complete suspension of deportation procedures to allow them to pursue getting a Green Card based on their marriage, but the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act does not recognize same-sex unions as valid in immigration matters.
Garcia came to the United States from Mexico when he was a boy and has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for almost 21 years. His parents, who are legal residents, have applied for U.S. citizenship.
“This country is my home and Brian is my husband. I don’t want to lose everything we’ve built together and have them tell me that I can’t return to the U.S. for 10 years,” said Garcia in the communique.
The couple has joined the Stop the Deportations campaign in their fight for a Green Card for the Mexican based on their marriage.
Same-sex marriage is legal in the states of New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maryland, as well as in the District of Columbia.