Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cristina & Monica Featured in Video Highlighting DOMA's Harm on Married Binational Couple Fighting Deportation

Today Freedom to Marry released a video produced in partnership with In The Life Media telling the moving story of Cristina Alcota and Monica Ojeda, who, though legally married, face deportation or separation because the so-called Defense of Marriage Act denies married same-sex couples immigration protections. (Scroll down to view the video in Spanish, or to view in Spanish with English subtitles, click here.)

“Cristina and Monica fell in love, made a lifetime commitment to one another, and got married. Now they spend every day worrying about whether they will be ripped apart or forced into exile in order to stay together because the so-called Defense of Marriage Act keeps the U.S. government from honoring their marriage,” said Evan Wolfson, Founder and President of Freedom to Marry. “If not for DOMA, Cristina would be able to petition for Monica as her spouse without any difficulty. It is time to overturn DOMA and ensure that all Americans are treated fairly and equally under the law.”

Married lesbian and gay binational couples have moved to the forefront of the fight against DOMA since the launch of The DOMA Project's Stop The Deportations Campaign last summer.

"We recognized that support for Marriage Equality in the United States had shifted dramatically in our favor, said Lavi Soloway, attorney for Cristina and Monica and co-founder of the Stop The Deportations campaign.  "Increasingly, binational couples were marrying in the five states and the District of Colombia where marriage equality had been achieved. We decided to take on DOMA with a group of married binational couples leading the charge, something that had not been done before. We focused specifically on married couples facing deportation to illustrate DOMA's cruelest impact: tearing apart our families and destroying marriages.  As a result of our work, the plight of binational couples is now more accurately understood as harm caused by DOMA. It is a simple matter of equality. Without DOMA, gay and lesbian Americans would be able to petition for their spouses under the existing provisions of U.S. immigration law. It is, therefore, imperative that DOMA be repealed and that a moratorium on deportations of spouses of lesbian and gay American be implemented by the administration immediately so that all families are protected."

Cristina and Monica were among the founding couples of the Stop The Deportations campaign. For the past eight months they have shared their story and bravely fought against DOMA in immigration court and the media, winning a reprieve from deportation earlier this year on the basis of their marriage. Christina and Monica have been in the forefront of the campaign urging the Obama Administration to halt deportations of law-abiding spouses of lesbian and gay American citizens pending the outcome of legal challenges to DOMA.

Cristina and Monica met several years ago when Cristina was in school for social work. They married in a ceremony in Connecticut. An American citizen, Cristina petitioned for her wife Monica, an Argentinean national, to obtain a "green card."  Because they are a same-sex couple, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act bars the federal government from honoring their marriage for the purposes of immigration, and Cristina's petition for Monica cannot be approved. Still they continue their fight to build a future together in this country. In March, an immigration judge delayed their case in light of court challenges finding DOMA unconstitutional, and the Department of Justice’s determination that DOMA is indefensible under the Constitution.  They return to immigration court on December 6 to once again fight for the right to be together.

Of marriage, Cristina Alcota says in the video “You’re doing this to be with the person you love for the rest of your life… marriage is a bond that cannot be broken that easily.” She goes on to say “The government doesn’t recognize that our marriage is valid for purposes of immigration because of DOMA and we are facing being either torn apart or being removed from this country.”

Cristina is a social worker and Monica is an antique furniture restorer. The two women currently live in Queens, New York.

Cristina and Monica have appeared numerous times in the media as activists for the DOMA Project's Stop The Deportations campaign, including:  CNN, New York Daily News (twice), Gay City News (twice) and NY1 Pura Politica.

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