Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Congressman Rush Holt to Secretary Janet Napolitano: Stop the Deportation of Henry Velandia

Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano 
In the first letter of its kind since the administration changed its position on the Defense of Marriage Act, Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) urges Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to "immediately resolve" the deportation case currently impacting his constituents, Josh Vandiver and Henry Velandia, and to halt all deportations involving married gay and lesbian binational couples.

In the letter, Holt writes that their case "illustrates the injustice and unconstitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act" and notes that "our immigration policies must work to unite families, not rip them apart." As the Congressman notes, Josh and Henry were lawfully married in the state of Connecticut, but because of DOMA Josh is prevented from petitioning Henry for a green card. In fact, Josh did file an alien relative petition for Henry earlier this year, and that petition was denied. Henry faces a final deportation hearing on May 6. On that day an Immigration Judge in Newark, New Jersey will decide whether Henry will be deported to Venezuela.

Henry came to the United States in 2002 to join his mother. Soon after he sought the services of an immigration lawyer who assisted him in filing an employment based immigration case. The case was initially approved by the Department of Labor, but after waiting for the green card application to be approved for a few years, Henry received a denial letter and was placed into deportation proceedings. Josh and Henry have been together as a couple for five years, but since 2009 they have been fighting deportation. They have taken a prominent role in The DOMA Project - Stop the Deportations campaign tirelessly working to raise awareness of the discrimination against married gay and lesbian couples.

With this letter Congressman Holt advocates strongly for a policy that would end the DOMA deportations: "As a result of DOMA, Henry is ineligible for a spouse visa and will be deported unless the courts rule on the unconstitutionality of DOMA or a bill passes in Congress challenging DOMA. As a U.S. citizen, Josh should receive the full rights granted to all citizens and should not be singled out based on his sexual orientation, which is what is occurring by not allowing Josh to sponsor Henry for a visa."  Holt expresses his strong support of the admnistration's February 23 decision not to defend the DOMA and supports its repeal. But, he says, "In the interim, you must not apply this unconstitutional law to tear apart families."

"In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security made the decision based on humanitarian
grounds to put a moratorium on deportations of the widows of U.S. citizen husbands who
were killed during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq before they received their green
cards. In light of Attorney General Holder's new guidance, I am asking you to suspend
the deportation of all spouses of citizens in a same-sex marriage until a decision is reached on DOMA. This is the right thing to do for Henry, Josh and countless others who are being victimized by this discriminatory and unconstitutional law."

Josh and Henry meeting with Congressman Holt in Princeton, NJ last week