There have been many stories in the news about bi-national gay couples who have been torn apart because they are not eligible to apply for green cards because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). And even after the Obama administration announced that it would no longer defend DOMA in courts last February, bi-national gay families have received little relief and a lot of gray area remains.
However, it seems that some headway is being made. On Friday, it was reported that the director of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement put out a memo to field directors, agents, and attorneys working for the organization that lists 19 circumstances that should be considered before making arrests or going forward with deportation cases.
One of the circumstances listed is whether an individual has a U.S. citizen spouse, another looks at "the person's ties and contributions to the community" and a third asks if the individual's nationality "renders removal unlikely." Ultimately, the new guidelines could prevent many law-abiding undocumented immigrants from being deported.
The memo also stated that the list "is not exhaustive" which led some LGBT immigration rights groups to ask for clarification as to whether or not terms such as "spouse" and "family" also apply to gay marriages and familial ties. After all, gay marriage is legal in many states now.
But other LGBT immigration rights groups say that the new guidelines do apply to gay and straight people alike and allows ICE workers to consider the familial and community ties of lesbian and gay bi-national couples, one of whom is at risk of deportation.
An advocate, who is a LGBT immigration lawyer and heads an organization called Stop the Deportations, said that the organization will "urge that these guidelines be applied fairly and compassionately to the spouses of lesbian and gay Americans facing deportation."
Source: The Advocate, "New Guidelines on Deportation Cases Could Apply to Gay Couples," Andrew Harmon, 6/20/2011.