Integrity Legal

31st March 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued instructions to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to dispense with the hold on deportations of same sex spouses of United States Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents which was announced approximately 2 days ago. To quote directly from an article posted on the Advocate.com entitled Official: No Hold On Gay Immigration Cases:

Wednesday morning USCIS press secretary Christopher S. Bentley told The Advocate that the agency had received legal guidance to lift the hold it had issued Monday. The guidance was issued in the form of written communications from the Office of the General Counsel at Department of Homeland Security (USCIS is a component of DHS).

Those interested in reading more about this information are highly encouraged to click on the hyperlinks immediately preceding the quotation to learn more.

Clearly, officials at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) were attempting to provide some relief to those in the LGBT community in the USA with their same sex bi-national partners who are stuck in the currently limbo-like immigration system, as it pertains to same sex marriages. The question this blogger has is: why all of this bureaucratic runaround? There is a clear venue for resolving this issue: the United States Supreme Court, but it would seem as though the administration would like solve this issue through internal bureaucratic rule making and unilateral executive actions, but this is not the way law is made and this is not the legal way of effecting change in situations such as the one currently facing the LGBT community. Even a Supreme Court decision on this issue is unlikely to be straightforward as there are many aspects of the Full Faith and Credit Clause which come up in the context of interstate recognition of same sex marriage. However, the decision of the Supreme Court, in this blogger’s opinion, on the issue of FEDERAL recognition of same sex marriages legalized and solemnized in the sovereign States is likely to produce an outcome whereby an avenue would be created to allow same sex bi-national couples to receive immigration benefits of the same quality as those granted to different sex bi-national couples.

The announcement from USCIS on Monday about placing a “hold” on deportations of same sex partners of US Citizens and Permanent Residents came as a relief to many in the United States who may only be subject to deportation due to the onerous (and possibly UnConstitutional) provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) since some same sex bi-national couples have legalized and solemnized a valid same sex marriage in one of the 6 States (along with the District of Columbia) that allows same sex marriage. The only thing precluding Federal recognition of same sex marriages performed within the jurisdiction of the sovereign States which recognize such unions is the questionably Constitutional so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) which was promulgated and enacted under the Presidency of William Jefferson Clinton.

In a recent memorandum from the Attorney General (Eric Holder) to the Speaker of the House of Representatives it was noted that the President’s administration has taken the position that same sex married couples ought to be granted the benefit of so-called “strict scrutiny” review from the Supreme Court and that the administration would discontinue in prosecuting DOMA cases against LGBT couples. This blogger has noted that such a position may not be beneficial to the overall cause of equal immigration rights as failure to get a “case or controversy” before the United States Supreme Court could lead to a situation in which this complex legal issue is not adjudicated by the Highest Court in the USA and therefore remains in the “limbo” in which this issue currently continues to languish. The Department of Homeland Security’s announcement further shows that until the provisions of DOMA, which preclude Federal recognition of same sex marriage, are overturned the position of the married LGBT community (at least in the eyes of the law and the immigration authorities) will remain precarious.

One point in the above cited article was of particular interest to this blogger. The following passage was quoted from the aforementioned article:

Bentley declined to release any of the written documents at this time, saying it was privileged communication. He emphasized that the official policy itself within DHS had never changed.

What PRIVILEGE!!!! So now the United States government, in the form of the Department of Homeland Security, invokes privilege (a legal principle generally reserved for individual natural persons when dealing with the US government) to keep their own policy memorandum regarding this issue secret? Why the secrecy? Why all of the pomp and circumstance about how important the administration’s memo was to the LGBT community when in reality it would appear to have done nothing substantive for the cause of LGBT equal rights and might have even placed the LGBT community in a less favorable position compared to their position prior to the administration’s memo to the Speaker of the House? So the Department of Homeland Security is claiming privilege when communicating with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), an American agency under DHS jurisdiction. Does anyone find it strange that the United States government now claims that civilian inter-agency memos regarding official policy which pertains to Americans and their families are privileged? It was this blogger’s belief that the United States governmental authorities are servants of the people and therefore required to provide transparency in their policy making endeavors especially when such policy making can impact a wide spectrum of the United States Citizenry and their families.

Clearly, the struggle to secure equal immigration rights for the LGBT community has yet to be won, but for those interested in this issue it is clear that there may be a long campaign to see equal treatment of same sex bi-national couples under the law of the United States of America. This blogger and this blog will continue to monitor this important and interesting issue.

Another method to gain equal immigration rights for same sex bi-national couples is through passage of legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) which would grant same sex bi-national couples the benefit of applying for an immigrant visa for a “permanent partner” thereby circumventing the immigration restrictions imposed by DOMA. Federal legislators such as Representative Jerrold Nadler have introduced such legislation repeatedly in an effort to provide some kind of relief to those same sex bi-national couples who continue to be denied equal access to family immigration benefits. As of the time of this writing, Mr. Nadler has gone so far as to openly call for a repeal of DOMA and the promulgation of the Respect for Marriage Act a piece of legislation which would restore Federal recognition of State licensed marriage and restore, at least in part, the rights of same sex married couples who merely seek equal protection under the law.

For related information please see: same sex immigration.


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