New York Couple Fighting to Stay Together
March 22, 2011
Monica Alcota and Cristina Ojeda met online, fell in love, and built a life together in Queens, New York – Monica works as an antiques restorer and Cristina is a social worker. As a couple, their relationship grew from long, weekly bus trips between Buffalo and New York City to see each other to marriage in Connecticut in August 2010. Cristina sums it up: “We are as close and committed as two people in love can be.”
In an especially cruel spat of irony, the federal government had been moving forward with deportation proceedings for Monica, an Argentinean citizen who fled her home country in 2000 out of fear of persecution due to her sexual orientation. That is until today.
Today, an immigration judge adjourned deportation proceedings to allow Cristina and Monica to move forward with their application to have their marriage recognized for the purpose of federal immigration law.
The couple’s attorneys, Lavi Soloway and Noemi Masliah, argue that their clients’ marital status should qualify Alcota for permanent residency, as would be the case with any different-sex couple.
A 2010 US court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act’s denial of federal recognition for legal same-sex marriages, they say –– coupled with the Justice Department’s recent decision that it could not and would not defend DOMA’s constitutionality on that point –– opens up the real possibility that Alcota and Ojeda may be accorded recognition.
In a March 22 hearing in the US courthouse at 26 Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan, Immigration Judge Terry A. Bain gave the couple the go-ahead to press their claim with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) –– a unit of the Department of Homeland Security –– through what is known as Form I-130, a petition to have Alcota recognized as “the spouse of USC.”
For now, the couple’s case has been adjourned until December.
There are many couples in situations similar to that of Cristina and Monica. This is further proof that DOMA does nothing more than hurt same-sex couples and their families.
Freedom to Marry has called on President Obama to publicly support the freedom to marry for all loving and committed couples. You can co-sign the open letter here.