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"After Erwin de Leon successfully defended his dissertation, he felt relief at being closer to earning his doctorate in public and urban policy. But the achievement also meant that time was running out to find a way to stay in the United States.
Despite the fact that de Leon, a Philippine international student, is married to a U.S. citizen, John Beddingfield, both live in uncertainty about the future of their family.
The hopes of de Leon and other activists were raised earlier this year when President Barack Obama declared that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional. This section defines marriage as "a legal union between one man and one woman".
On Apr. 6, a coalition of member organizations of the American Immigration Lawyers Association sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security emphasizing family unity, for straight and gay couples, as a guiding principle of U.S. immigration law.
The co-founder of the campaign Stop the Deportations-The DOMA Project, Lavi Soloway, told IPS that "more than 65 members of Congress requested the White House to hold green card applications in abeyance and suspend the deportations."
Soloway cited the hold placed on deportation proceedings for Argentine immigrant Monica Alcota, who is married to Cristina Ojeda, a U.S. citizen, by a New York immigration judge in March as a turning point in the debate.
Although de Leon and Beddingfield have been in a committed relationship for close to 13 years, they have yet to fully settle down and buy a house. "We really don't know what is going to happen, we might have to move to Canada or another country in the following years," de Leon told IPS.
To guarantee residency rights for gay couples, Democrats in both the House and Senate re-introduced the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) on Apr.14. But Soloway said that with the House dominated by Republicans and the Senate by Democrats, the "Congress is frozen."
He said that the UAFA has gained more supporters during the 11 years it has been debated in Congress, but is still far from having a majority of votes. Thus, one possible solution for the project to move forward is its inclusion in a comprehensive immigration reform package."