The Democratic senior senator from Massachusetts is seeking to aid a married lesbian couple in his state by asking the Department of Homeland Security to take administrative action to ensure the foreign national in the relationship won’t be deported back to Pakistan.
In a redacted letter dated March 27 and obtained Friday by the Washington Blade, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) asks Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to hold in abeyance the I-130 marriage-based green card petition for the couple until the Defense of Marriage Act is overturned either by Congress or the courts.
“I know that you and I both believe that every family is worthy and recognition and respect, and that no family should be torn apart based on a discriminatory law,” Kerry writes. “Abeyance will allow this remarkable young couple to move forward with their dream of building a life together at home in Massachusetts.”
placed in abeyance.
(Photo courtesy Stop the Deportations – The DOMA Project.)
The couple is are going by their first names only, Gloria, a Pakistan national, and Jackie, who are both 24 and reside together in Beverly, Mass. The two met as roommates in college in 2008 and their shared Christian faith brought them closer together. After falling in love, they married in Massachusetts in October.
But Gloria’s student visa expired after she could no longer afford tuition and had to stop attending school last year, dropping her out of legal status and putting her in a situation where she may be deported back to Pakistan.
In March, Jackie filed a marriage-based green card petition to sponsor Gloria for residency in the United States. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services has yet to make a decision on the petition, but it will likely be denied unless it’s held in in abeyance because DOMA prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.
Their attorney, Lavi Soloway, co-founder of Stop the Deportations and partner at Masliah & Soloway, redacted their last names in the letter he gave to the Blade, saying he did so at their request out of concern for their safety and safety of family members overseas. He also declined to disclose the school they both attended.
Recalling that the Obama administration has determined DOMA was unconstitutional and stopped defending the anti-gay law in court, Kerry writes this announcement last year left many same-sex couples “wondering how that will apply to their pending cases” and enables an opportunity for action.
“Among those harmed by the discrimination enshrined in law by DOMA are many of my constituents in Massachusetts who face separation from husbands, wives, grandparents, grandchildren, extended family, colleagues and community,” the senator says.
Kerry writes that the case of Gloria and Jackie “clearly justifies” administration action because of the potentially harsh treatment Gloria would face if sent back to Pakistan. Homosexuality is a crime that could be punishable by jail time there and Christians have been known to face persecution in the country.
“She is certain that if she is forced to return to Pakistan, her life will be in danger, not only because of her sexual orientation and her marriage to a United States citizen, but for religious reasons as well,” Kerry writes.
It’s not the first time Kerry has asked the Obama administration to take action to stop the separation of bi-national same-sex couples. In April 2011, Kerry led a group of 12 senators who signed a letter to Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security asking that the marriage-based green card petitions for these couples be held in abeyance.