Janet Napolitano, Secretary, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security
United States of America

On August 29, Henry Velandia and Josh Vandiver were married in Montville, Connecticut. But unlike most newlyweds, Henry and Josh aren't spending the fall sending out thank you cards or taking the honeymoon of their dreams. Instead, Henry and Josh are fighting to save their marriage.

Because of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA), passed by Congress in 1996, the federal government does not recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples. As a result, Henry, who was born in Venezuela and moved to the U.S. in 2002, is facing deportation instead of settling down to build a future with his husband. If DOMA did not exist, Josh, a U.S. citizen born in Colorado, would be able to sponsor Henry for a "green card." As an American citizen, Josh is being denied the right to sponsor his spouse only because he is gay.

With Henry in deportation proceedings before an Immigration Court in New Jersey, the couple is now faced with the terrifying reality of being torn apart. Every day they fight to keep their family together, and they are not alone. Tens of thousands of gay and lesbian bi-national couples are in urgent need of assistance as they face the threat of separation, deportation or exile because of DOMA. The U.S. government discriminates against legally married same-sex couples, excluding them from more than one thousand laws, important public policies that provide protection to families including Social Security survivor benefits, provisions in the tax code, and the ability of a U.S. citizen to sponsor his/her spouse for residency. Gay and lesbian couples deserve the same protections provided for all families under federal law.

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Loving, committed, and legally married couples like Henry and Josh shouldn't have to fight against the U.S. government for the right to be together.

Tell Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to end the deportations of spouses of gay and lesbian Americans and protect married couples like Henry and Josh.

Dear Secretary Napolitano,

I am writing to urge you to ensure that married same-sex couples like Henry Velandia and Josh Vandiver stay together in the U.S. by halting the deportation of spouses of gay and lesbian Americans.

Henry came to the U.S. in 2002 from Venezuela. He is a professional salsa dancer who has never committed a crime and is loved by his family and friends in the dance community. Josh, an American citizen born in Colorado, is currently a Ph.D. student in Political Theory at Princeton University. They were married in Montville, Connecticut on August 29, 2010. But unlike most newlyweds, Henry and Josh aren't spending the fall starting their new life together.

Instead, Henry and Josh are fighting to save their marriage. Henry is currently in deportation proceedings before an Immigration Court in New Jersey. As a United States citizen, Josh has filed a Petition for Alien Relative on Henry’s behalf. That petition should be approved, but the government’s stated policy is to deny such petitions for same-sex couples because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which denies recognition to legal same-sex marriage for all federal law purposes.

DOMA is discriminatory and has been found to be unconstitutional by a Federal District Court judge. It is under multiple challenges judicially and legislatively. Most importantly, the Obama administration has spoken out forcefully and repeatedly against DOMA, calling for its repeal as a discriminatory and unjust law. Given its position on DOMA, the administration should not be actively deporting spouses of gay and lesbian Americans while the challenges to DOMA are on-going. This administration has exercised discretion in determining its priorities when pursuing deportations (for example, the government suspended deportations of widows of U.S. citizens in 2009 while Congress worked on a legislative fix).

I respectfully request you direct Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to exercise prosecutorial discretion to ensure that no spouse of a gay American citizen is deported while immigration reform efforts and DOMA challenges are pending. We want DHS to direct ICE to offer spouses of gay and lesbian Americans “deferred action” (as it is now doing for those potentially eligible for DREAM Act relief).

Deferred action is a temporary remedy that keeps couples together while Congress works toward the repeal of DOMA (the Respect for Marriage Act pending in the House with 120 co-sponsors) and while various federal court challenges against DOMA proceed through the appellate process.

Given that DOMA was struck down as unconstitutional by a federal district court judge on July 8, 2010 (Gill v. Office of Personnel Management), DHS should suspend deportations of spouses of gay and lesbian Americans while we await the outcome of the appellate process. No spouse should be deported who would otherwise be eligible for permanent resident status once DOMA is struck down or repealed.

I feel that no married gay binational couple should have to face the catastrophic experience of being torn apart because of a discriminatory law that has already been found to be unconstitutional by a federal judge. The government should not be in the business of destroying marriages and tearing apart families.

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