DOMA ruling eases immigration worries for same-sex couples

June 27, 2013 8:31:10 PM PDT
The Supreme Court's decision on the Defense of Marriage Act should help keep some same-sex couples from being separated by an immigration order. There are an estimated 40,000 same-sex couples in the United Stated in this situation. Now, the U.S. citizen in the marriage will be able to petition for a green card for their spouse.

Brian Willingham feared his husband Alfonso Garcia would be deported to Mexico any minute. But Wednesday's Supreme Court decision was liberating.

"All of those worries and concerns have been, like, melting away," he said.

The couple from Orinda married in 2010. Still, two years ago, deportation proceedings against Garcia started.

Last year a hearing was put on hold pending the resolution of the DOMA case.

"We've been together for 10 years but everything was on hold because we never knew what was going to happen," Garcia said.

But now Willingham will now be able to petition for a green card for Garcia after the Supreme Court said all gay couples are entitled to the same federal benefits as heterosexual marriages.

Mark Silverman is an immigration attorney. He expects the Justice Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will issue guidelines and offer advice to attorneys very soon.

"And the immigration judge, assuming the proceedings aren't based on a serious crime, will end the deportation process, in my opinion," Silverman said.

Garcia hopes to have that legal status by the end of the year. They're even talking again about starting a family.

"We've been having this conversation for 10 years but always, until now, we've been saying we couldn't do that because neither one of us wanted to be a single father if he had to leave the country and relocated a whole family someplace else," he said.

Both say planning for the future together starts now.

Thursday, ABC7 News was told by immigration officials in Washington DC to email them a list of questions. We did, but still we never got a response back. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who oversees immigration applications, said she was working to implement the DOMA ruling for immigrants.


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