Gay couple struggling to stay together over threat of deportation

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Velendia Vandiver Immigration rallyIt’s a B movie nightmare – the government takes your true love and ships them off to another continent. For Josh Vandiver and Henry Velandia, this nightmare has been a daily reality. Although the couple was married last year, Velandia could be deported back to his native Venezuela despite Vandiver’s US citizenship. On Friday, May 6th, a rally was held in Newark, NJ in support of the couple. GetEQUAL, Garden State Equality, the Princeton Equality Project and many other LGBT equality organizations sponsored the event. Later that same day, Velandia’s deportation proceedings were adjourned until December by an immigration judge.

Josh Vandiver and Henry Velandia met almost five years ago on the Princeton University campus.

Josh Vandiver and Henry Velandia met almost five years ago on the Princeton University campus.

Although Vandiver and Velandia were married in Connecticut, the Defense of Marriage Act bars the federal government from recognizing their relationship. Since 1996, DOMA has been a huge roadblock for many binational, same-gender couples. The Obama administration recently stated that it could no longer support DOMA because it violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. This development has brought new hope to the cause.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services generally allows a US citizen to sponsor their spouse for a green card. Lavi Soloway, the lawyer for Vandiver and Velandia, told Out In Jersey, “Immigration laws bend over backwards to keep families together, especially married couples.” Vandiver, however, cannot sponsor his husband like other couples because he is in a same-gender relationship. When DOMA is repealed, Vandiver and Velandia will have a much better chance of staying together in the US.

Josh Vandiver at a protest in New York against U.S. immigration policy.

Josh Vandiver at a protest in New York against U.S. immigration policy.

On Friday, Immigration Judge Alberto Riefkohl adjourned Velandia’s deportation proceedings until December. Stop The Deportations: The DOMA Project reports that the decision is the result of the pending status of Vandiver’s green card petition and Attorney General Eric Holder’s intervention in another NJ gay couple’s deportation proceedings. Riefkohl’s ruling is solid good news for a couple that has been riding an endless immigration roller coaster.

The couple has a heart-warming story. Velandia said, “We met four years ago in November 2006. We met in Princeton on campus. I live around the area, we kind of clicked and it was really great to meet Josh. That’s when I came out to my mom, the same day I met Josh.” Velandia, a native of Venezuela, came to the US in 2002. Vandiver is currently attending Princeton University for his PhD.

“As an American citizen I should be able to sponsor my spouse for citizenship,” Vandiver said.” It is a violation of my rights to have my spouse forcibly deported. No American citizen should have to go through this. I filled out the same petition that every non-gay citizen fills out.” Soloway added, “[Velandia and Vandiver are] very sweet, and they really, in my mind, very well represent why we have family unification as the primary principle of our immigration laws.”

Immigration story protest in New York. Soloway believes that Velandia will be in danger if returned to Venezuela. Velandia agreed, adding, “I came to this country and I found myself, who I am. It’s like the American dream. [Returning to Venezuela] would be threatening for myself and my life. It is not an option. My home, the machismo, the society does not accept openly gay men like in American. I believe it is dangerous for my life.” He added, “I am who I am because I’m in the country and because I met Josh.” To the couple, the issue is not about immigration at all. It is an issue of equality, fairness and same-gender marriage.

Repeatedly, Velandia and Vandiver were unable to answer my questions about deportation simply because, as Vandiver put it, “deportation is not an option.” At the moment, Velandia is in this country on borrowed time. Thanks to the Obama administration, that time has been extended until a decision about DOMA is made. The couple is currently working with The DOMA Project: Stop the Deportations to ensure that loving couples can stay together.

The couple’s love is obvious to even the most casual observer. Near the end of the interview, Velandia said, “When I met Josh, it changed my life.” Hopefully, the couple will soon be able to move on with their life together and forget the threat of deportation like a bad dream.

Henry Vandiver and Josh Velandia request readers to sign their petition to Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It can be found online at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/saveourmarriage.html. They have also requested that readers contact their Congressional representatives in Washington and urge them to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act which makes this anti-gay couples immigration and deportation squabble possible under federal law.

 

Velendia Vandiver Immigration rallyIt’s a B movie nightmare – the government takes your true love and ships them off to another continent. For Josh Vandiver and Henry Velandia, this nightmare has been a daily reality. Although the couple was married last year, Velandia could be deported back to his native Venezuela despite Vandiver’s US citizenship. On Friday, May 6th, a rally was held in Newark, NJ in support of the couple. GetEQUAL, Garden State Equality, the Princeton Equality Project and many other LGBT equality organizations sponsored the event. Later that same day, Velandia’s deportation proceedings were adjourned until December by an immigration judge.