Judge Rules for Same-Sex Marriage Partner Who Was Denied Immigration Benefits


On Friday, April 19, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Consuelo Marshall in Los Angeles, CA, ruled that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (the “USCIS”) denied Jane Deleon equal protection of the law when it refused to recognize her same-sex marriage as a legitimate basis for spousal immigration benefits.

In the case of Arenas, Deleon, et al. v. Janet Napolitano, et al., the judge opined that the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), which was a predicate for denying immigration status or benefits to Jane Deleon, had disrupted the “long-standing practice of the federal government deferring to each state’s decisions as to the requirements for a valid marriage.”

In so ruling, Judge Marshall stated that a decision issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in 1982 in the case of Adams v. Howerton, which rejected equal protection claims under similar circumstances, was not a controlling precedent because of “intervening statutory and policy changes.”

Marshall also certified the lawsuit as a nationwide class action on behalf of all similarly situated “members of lawful same-sex marriages who have been denied or will be denied lawful immigration status or related benefits” pursuant to DOMA.

The judge however declined to issue a preliminary injunction against USCIS, finding that class members were likely to have deportation deferred pursuant to the so-called “Morton Memos” issued by the Department of Homeland Security, which shifted DHS enforcement focus to aliens who have committed criminal acts or present threats to the U.S.

Counsel for the complainants stated in a press release that “immigrant members of same-sex marriages will suffer needlessly in the interim” until the law is changed or a final injunction is issued. The attorneys for the class have requested information from the public on the following:

  • Cases in which USCIS, ICE or an immigration court denied an immigration application based on DOMA, particularly after October 2012, when the government defendants allegedly stopped issuing denials of same-sex couple immigration applications; and
  • Cases in which U.S. citizens or immigrants in same sex marriages with immigration petitions or applications pending are facing clear hardships, such as lack of work permits, inability to travel, or government refusal to suspend deportation proceedings.

If you have information related to these requests, you can contact either:

As always, the Law Office of Ronald Shapiro, Esq. stands ready to serve those in need of immigration assistance. Please call us at (847)564-0712 to speak with an experienced and qualified immigration attorney and/or check out our immigration law Website for more information about how we might assist you.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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