Last year, we wrote about Joshua Vandiver and Henry Velandia, a married couple who risked being separated because of discrimination in federal immigration laws. Vandiver, an American citizen, and Velandia, a Venezuelan, were married in Connecticut, but because the Defense of Marriage Act prohibits federal agencies from recognizing same-sex marriages, Vandiver was unable to sponsor Velandia for a green card, and Velandia was at risk of being deported.
Then, earlier this month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement quietly closed the case against Velandia – in a move that could set a powerful precedent for how immigration officials deal with cases of married gay couples. From the New York Times :
In a decision that could have far-reaching effects on immigration cases involving same-sex couples, federal officials have canceled the deportation of a Venezuelan man in New Jersey who is married to an American man, the couple’s lawyer said Wednesday.
Josh Vandiver, left, and his husband, Henry Velandia, outside the immigration court in Newark on Friday.
The announcement comes as immigration officials put into effect new, more flexible guidelines governing the deferral and cancellation of deportations, particularly for immigrants with no serious criminal records.
Immigration lawyers and gay rights advocates said the decision represented a significant shift in policy and could open the door to the cancellation of deportations for other immigrants in same-sex marriages.
“This action shows that the government has not only the power but the inclination to do the right thing when it comes to protecting certain vulnerable populations from deportation,” said the couple’s lawyer, Lavi Soloway.
The case has been closely watched across the country by lawyers and advocates who viewed it as a test of the federal government’s position on the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.
Vandiver, a Princeton graduate student, and Velandia told their story in a video for the Daily Princetonian last year: