In May, we told the stories of two GLBT immigrants living in Colorado and seeking asylum to stay in the United States forever. Their stories of discrimination and abuse in their home countries tested the limits of asylum law. On Friday, another local GLBT immigrant, a lesbian woman named Mrs. Hernandez, will test the system again when she asks a judge to allow her to stay here with her long-term partner.
Mrs. Hernandez, who asked that her full name not be revealed, is from Mexico. In 2006, she met her partner, a U.S. citizen from Denver. The two fell in love and were married in Iowa in 2010. But the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) does not recognize their union -- and thus, neither does the federal immigration system.
"If this couple were straight, they'd be able to apply for legal status," says Julie Gonzales of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. "But because DOMA is still the law of the land, their relationship is not recognized at all. Hence, not being able to get legal status. Hence, not being able to get a driver's license. Hence, being flagged for deportation."
Mrs. Hernandez was pulled over in 2008 for a minor traffic violation. When the officer realized she was undocumented, she wound up in an immigration detention center, where spent three months until her partner was able to bond her out. Since then, they've spent more than $20,000 to hire a lawyer and fight her scheduled deportation.
On Friday, an immigration judge in Denver will make a final decision in the case. Gonzales and other advocates are hopeful that a memo penned in June by John Morton, director of federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), might tip the case in Mrs. Hernandez's favor. In it, Morton urges prosecutorial discretion in cases where the immigrant has a spouse who is a U.S. citizen. But will that apply to Mrs. Hernandez?
"Her case demonstrates a convergence of two broken systems: DOMA federal law and immigration federal law," Gonzales says. "DOMA needs to be overturned... and immigration law needs to recognize all relationships."
Watch this space for an update on the status of Mrs. Hernandez's case.
More from our Immigration archives: "Jeanette Vizguerra deportation decision delayed again, final ruling likely to come in October."