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Pending DOMA Ruling, USCIS Announces “Abeyance Policy” for Married, Binational Same-Sex Couples

by Mahwish Khan on 03/29/2011 at 12:25pm

same-sex binational coupleSome good news came through yesterday for bi-national same-sex couples — according to Prerna Lal at Change.org:

After a long struggle with the law, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has confirmed that it will no longer deny green card applications (I-130s) filed by married same-sex binational couples. They will hold them in abeyance till a final decision can be reached on the legal challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Note that “holding in abeyance” does not mean processing, but it could result in a de facto deferred action.

Just last month, we learned that President Obama asked the Department of Justice to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in pending court cases, thinking that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional. This move by USCIS is a direct outcome of the President’s new position on DOMA.

Many celebrated the news as we and other immigration groups took notice of the impact that such a stand would have on the estimated 36,000 bi-national same-sex couples. As Immigration Equality laid out the real life consequences of this new policy in its statement yesterday:

Last week, Immigration Equality’s legal team filed a green card application on behalf of Edwin Blesch, an American citizen, and Tim Smulian, his South African husband.  Despite being legally married in South Africa – a marriage recognized in Edwin’s home state of New York – the couple has struggled to remain together.  Edwin struggles with failing health and increasingly depends on Tim as his primary caretaker.  The couple joined Immigration Equality in hailing today’s announcement.

“Every day, we live with the very real possibility that, despite following every law and every policy of the United States, Tim will be forced to leave the country, and I will be left without my caretaker and the love of my life,” Blesch said in a statement.  “Today’s news gives us great relief, and great hope that we may soon be able to put that worry behind us. For the first time, we can begin to plan the rest of our lives together without fear that we will be torn apart.”

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