Photo: Judge delays deportation of Brian Willingham's husband Alfonso Garcia
An immigration judge in California decided to delay the deportation of an undocumented Mexican immigrant who wed his U.S. citizen partner in New York, where same-sex unions are recognized.
At a hearing on Thursday, a judge of the San Francisco Immigration Court postponed the deportation of Alfonso Garcia, 35, a Mexican who last year married Brian Willingham, 37. Both said they had been together for close to 10 years.
“It was a very positive response,” Lavi Soloway, the attorney representing Alfonso Garcia and Brian Willingham and who is also the founder of the Stop The Deportations-The DOMA Project organization, told Efe.
According to the attorney, the judge scheduled a new hearing for Oct. 23, giving Garcia time to complete the required procedures with immigration authorities while trying to find the best solution to the case.
Soloway believes the best solution would be for the authorities to cancel the deportation process and allow the Mexican to seek naturalization in the United States.
While the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act does not recognize same-sex unions as valid in immigration matters, Thursday’s decision opens another door of hope to undocumented immigrants with same-sex partners.
“It’s time the government acknowledged the marriage rights of same-sex couples,” Garcia, who was brought to the United States from Mexico as a boy and has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for almost 21 years, said Friday.
His parents, who are legal residents, have applied for U.S. citizenship.
Soloway stressed that Garcia’s situation could be aided by the new guidelines for applying immigration laws, since they are more favorable to putting off the deportation of people who represent no danger to society and have committed no serious crimes.
“Nonetheless, we want the process to be applied taking into account Garcia’s legal marriage to a U.S. citizen and his application for legal residence for that reason,” Soloway said.
Garcia was placed in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on July 1, 2011, after a routine traffic stop during which his undocumented status was discovered.
For the Mexican that meant spending time in jail and, when he was released, facing the process of a possible deportation.
If he is deported, Garcia would not be allowed back in the United States for 10 years.