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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Immigration Official: "The Hold Is Over"

By Chris Geidner -
The "hold" on same-sex married bi-national couples' green card applications -- celebrated by immigration and LGBT advocates -- is over, according to the spokesman for the agency that processes those requests.
"The guidance we were awaiting ... was received last night, so the hold is over, so we're back to adjudicating cases as we always have," U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services press secretary Christopher Bentley told Metro Weekly this morning.

The agency will continue to "enforce the law," he says, which means that the Defense of Marriage Act -- which prohibits the government from recognizing same-sex marriages -- prevents those green card applications from being approved.
In the past, they had been denied because of DOMA, but the administration's Feb. 23 decision to stop defending Section 3 of DOMA raised hopes for some that the USCIS and other immigration agencies would at least put such cases on hold while the constitutionality of DOMA was resolved.
The USCIS raised those hopes further when Bentley told Metro Weekly and, later, other news outlets on Monday, March 28, "USCIS has issued guidance to the field asking that related cases be held in abeyance while awaiting final guidance related to distinct legal issues."
That night, however, an official from the Department of Homeland Security told Metro Weekly, "[P]ursuant to CIS's routine practice when there's a new law or regulation that will potentially affect their resolution of certain cases, they hold [the cases] in abeyance until they get the final guidance from the general counsel's office," the official said.
That final guidance, USCIS's Bentley tells Metro Weekly, was received last night, March 29.
Asked if districts would be able to put cases on hold while awaiting a final court determination about the constitutionality of DOMA, Bentley said, "No. The guidance is the same policy that has always been in place," which he said is to "enforce the law."
Asked if that means applications of same-sex bi-national couples would continue to be denied now as they had in the past, Bentley said, "Correct, based on the enforcement of DOMA."


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