My name is Violeta. I am a 27 year old American citizen. I live in Denver, Colorado where I was born. I hold a degree in Criminal Justice and work as a Correctional Case Manager. My wife, Sujey, and I, are one of the many same-sex couples who are threatened with being torn apart because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Because of DOMA, I cannot pursue the most obvious solution which would be to petition for her as my spouse; instead we are fighting for asylum due to her past experiences of extreme harm that she suffered in Mexico and her fear of returning there. All our hopes are on this asylum application--a long, difficult and painful struggle for Sujey, who has had to re-live traumatic incidents of physical and sexual assaults--but there is no guarantee that it will be granted. What is so obvious, is that we should never have had to fight in this way at all. We have been together for almost 5 years as a couple and we are married. No American citizen should have to beg for protection for her spouse; the right to sponsor my spouse for a "green card" should be automatic for me as it is for all other American citizens.
On August 19th, an Immigration Judge in Denver will decide whether Sujey will be deported from the United States. This fact puts our life, our marriage, and our family into a state of complete chaos. Sujey has lived in the United States since she was brought here as a teenager, and she is fully a part of my family as any spouse can be. Why does my government insist on enforcing this unconstitutional law against me? If Sujey is deported she will be barred from the United States for ten years. TEN YEARS. There are no words to describe the anguish we feel as the days countdown to August 19th. We hope and pray for a miracle.
I met Sujey on November 2, 2006 at a gay club named El Protrero and from that day on we have never been apart. We had our first date the next day. Sujey was very supportive of me while I attended school and put in long hours studying. She would stay up late with me as I tried to get my homework done and would help me study and read my term papers. I loved her immediately. Two months later, Sujey and I moved in with each other; we were spending so much time with each other, our relationship was getting serious, and it made no sense to be paying two monthly rents. Our pets got along great, too. We quickly became one big a happy family. Together we now have 4 dogs, Honey, Briza, Akira and Rocko and 2 cats, Kissie and Soulen. We also have a red tail Boa, her name is Destiny.
I love Sujey with all my heart. I knew when we started dating that I had found true love for the first time in my life. I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. We were engaged for two years, our plans for our wedding were still taking place at the time Sujey was picked up by immigration. Even though we knew that the federal government doesn't recognize the marriages of same-sex couples, we knew just as strongly that we wanted to marry and move forward with our lives together as a family. As an engagement promise, we got tattoos with each other's names. We planned for two years to get married in one of the states where marriage was legal for a same-sex couples. Finally the day came. Sujey and I married November 15, 2010 in Iowa. It was the happiest day of our lives.
|Sujey and Violeta on their wedding day in Iowa, November 15, 2010|
I learned of Sujey’s abusive childhood early in our relationship. Sujey has many personal issues due to all of her trauma, so there were times when we had to sit down and talk about things. I learned that Sujey was given away by her mother a few months after her birth and that Sujey was raised by her grandmother. And in her grandmother's care, Sujey was the victim of extreme cruelty and abuse because she was a "tom boy." One family member in particular was determined to show her "how to be a girl" and raped her repeatedly. No one could protect Sujey. Even the Mexican authorities refused to intervene.
As a little girl, Sujey loved sports. At school, however, she was often in too much pain from her abuse to play sports which would result in dismissal from class. At home, Sujey would get in trouble for being dismissed and would get beaten up by her uncle. Sujey has lasting physical injuries resulting from the physical and sexual abuse she suffered growing up in Mexico. Her history makes me want to cry when she talks about it, but I can’t cry in order to support her, I have to be strong and be as optimistic as possible. Some days it is very difficult to keep a positive attitude. I can see the fear in her eyes, sometimes she thinks that her tormentor will come to the United States to look for her. I have to calm her down and reassure that I am here for her and that she is safe.
Once, when she was 16, Sujey was thrown out of her house in Mexico and was forced to hide at a neighbor's house for a few days. Desparate, she decided to call her mother, who by then resided in the United States. Her mother was married, but had never told her husband that she had left a daughter behind in Mexico. On the phone, Sujey's mother refused to help her, but her mother's husband intervened, to his credit, and forced Sujey's mother to go to Mexico to get her. And that is how Sujey was brought to the United States, where for the first time she met her three American-born brothers. Her feeling of safety lasted only a short time. A few months after Sujey was brought to the U.S., her mother discovered that Sujey was gay and threw her out into the street. Even though her mother was a green card holder she refused to sponsor Sujey. Sujey was left to fend for herself and find a way to survive in the United States without any support.
In November of 2008 Sujey got pulled over for a routine traffic violation and was taken to jail. There, Immigration and Customs Enforcement was notified and she was placed into deportation proceedings. We have been fighting to stay here ever since. I went with her to her mother's home to beg for her help but she refused to help Sujey because she was gay. We are scared for our lives and our future if Sujey is deported.
It is a shameful and sad reality that this country officially discriminates against lesbian and gay Americans by denying recognition of our marriages. We are second-class citizens at best. Denying that our love and our families are of the same value, denying us the same respect and the same legal protection simply because we are gay is unAmerican. We cannot be a country that cherishes equality, as long as our laws enforce this cruel discrimination against me. My government is so powerful that it can come into my home and drag my wife off to be deported, treating me like nothing more than a legal stranger.
I have been placed in a position where I have to choose between my country and my wife. If my wife gets deported and I choose my country, I would be left without my wife. If I leave to Mexico with her, I am left without my country. To keep my marriage intact I am being forced out of my own country. If Sujey is deported then I will be deported too, because I will not leave her side. She is my wife and I will be there for her to protect her and make sure she is safe with my last breath. The reality is that we have no way of surviving in Mexico. I don’t know what we will do. I should not have to be exiled from my own country because I am a gay woman. I am an American citizen. This should not be happening.
SAVE THE MARRIAGE OF VIOLETA & SUJEY PANDO:
CALL ON THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
TO STOP ALL DEPORTATIONS OF SPOUSES OF LESBIAN AND GAY AMERICANS
TO STOP ALL DEPORTATIONS OF SPOUSES OF LESBIAN AND GAY AMERICANS
U.S. Representative Diana DeGette: (202) 225-4431 Denver (303) 844-4988
U.S. Senator Michael Bennet: (202) 224-5852 Denver (303) 455-7600
U.S. Senator Mark Udall: 202-224-5941 Denver (303) 650-7820