DOMA UPDATE: Three Immigration Success Stories for Same-Sex Couples Following the Repeal of the Defe
by Jennifer A. Grady, Esq.
In light of the recent ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States, which struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on June 26, 2013, the federal government must recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples with regard to federal benefits, which includes immigration law relief. Since July 2013, immigrant beneficiaries of petitions filed by their same-sex U.S. citizen spouse have finally been able to obtain a Green Card, which grants them status as a Legal Permanent Resident and a path to U.S. citizenship.
For years, same-sex couples have struggled with temporary fixes that only allowed their partners to extend their stay in the U.S. Now, for the first time, many couples may be spared of the stress, uncertainty, and high expense of continuously having to extend their partner’s temporary visas.
In February 2013, Croatian national Davor Cakaric, who came to the United States on a tourist visa, married his U.S Citizen partner, Alan Alberto. The couple met as dancers for the Croatia National Theatre in Splît, Croatia in 2010. The petition Mr. Alberto filed in March on behalf of his husband was granted, and Cakaric’s Green Card—dated July 19, 2013—arrived in the mail in August, granting him permanent residency and the potential for citizenship. To their knowledge, they are the first same-sex, binational couple in Rhode Island to successfully petition for a Green Card since DOMA was invalidated.
On August 27, 2013, a San Francisco couple, Australian Bradford Wells and American Anthony Makk, celebrated the receipt of Makk’s Green Card after a 21-year struggle to be reunited permanently. After countless visa extensions and even political intervention by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senator Dianne Feinstein, the couple is among the first of approvals under the new guidance issued by USCIS in light of the DOMA ruling. The couple was notified of the good news just one week after their spousal interview at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) San Francisco Field Office.
Jensi Albright had been waiting for an opportunity to help her wife obtain a Green Card for almost ten years, ever since Carmen Gutiérrez came to the U.S. from El Salvador as a tourist in 2004 and decided to stay. While visiting Portland, Gutiérrez fell in love with Albright. As a teacher in El Salvador, she was targeted by thugs who forced her to hand over her salary, and as a lesbian woman, she felt she had to hide her sexuality or face persecution in her home country. However, staying in the U.S. with Ms. Albright was complicated, and illegal.
Gutiérrez and Albright married in Washington in February 2013. When DOMA was struck down a few months later, they finally saw an end to years of uncertainty. Within days of the Supreme Court ruling, they arrived at their attorney’s office with a box of documents, and Albright filed a petition for her wife’s permanent residency. Ms. Gutierrez has since obtained work authorization, and on October 3, 2013, was scheduled to appear before an immigration official in Portland to have their long-awaited interview to become a Legal Permanent Resident of the United States.
How Can Same-Sex Couples Benefit From This Change in the Law?
In order for an immigrant to apply for a Green Card, the U.S. citizen spouse may submit the Petition for Alien Relative (I-130), and the foreign-born spouse must also fill out the proper forms to adjust his or her status in the U.S. The couple must also submit the appropriate evidence showing the legal relationship, among other requirements. Because new applications may rise in the coming months, couples should begin filing promptly to avoid the delays in processing times beyond the current six to nine month wait.
Couples are urged to consult with an attorney who can walk them through the GreenCard and citizenship application process. In addition, couples may want to have their estate plan reviewed by The Grady firm estate planning and tax attorneys.
ABOUT THE GRADY FIRM
The Grady Firm, P.C. attorneys specialize in helping businesses grow and succeed through employment, business, and immigration law advising for clients in California. They help perform personnel audits, draft/revise Employee Handbooks, train employers on employment law compliance, provide on-demand legal analysis for hiring and firing questions, and provide leadership and sexual harassment training in English and Spanish.
To learn more about ensuring your business is compliant with state and local laws, schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation with The Grady Firm’s attorneys; call +1 (949) 798-6298; or fill out a Contact Request Form.
*This article is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. This article does not make any guarantees as to the outcome of a particular matter, as each matter has its own set of circumstances and must be evaluated individually by a licensed attorney.