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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Good News For Rodrigo & Edwin: Baltimore Immigration Judge Re-Opens Proceedings, Cancelling Order of Removal

A few months ago, in a cliff-hanger, Rodrigo Martinez was almost taken into custody and deported to El Salvador. In the first case involving a married binational couple an Immigration Judge has effectively reversed her own deportation order in order to give both the DHS and the couple an opportunity to achieve a just outcome, including to focus on DOMA related immigration issues. Never before has a binational couple won the re-opening of proceedings on the initiative of an Immigration Judge to address the issue of a DOMA deportation.

Edwin and Rodrigo on vacation this week with their family in Delaware, celebrated the news
that the Order of Deportation against Rodrigo had been cancelled by the Immigration Judge

Rodrigo Martinez and Edwin Echegoyen, a married binational couple, have been fighting for the simple right to live together in this country since 2002. After years of battling the system and exhausting all appeals, they lost. Rodrigo was ordered deported. Determined to stay together, Rodrigo did not leave the U.S. and the couple continued to fight.  They knew that one day the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers would come looking for Rodrigo, but they were not willing to give up, even against such overwhelming odds.

Finally in February 2011, it happened. DHS notified Edwin that they planned to deport Rodrigo by March 9.  Rodrigo and Edwin immediately contacted Stop The Deportations and joined our campaign.  By coincidence, on February 23, the President and Attorney General announced that it would no longer defend DOMA because they had determined that it was unconstitutional.  After 8 years together, Rodrigo and Edwin married on March 1 and demanded that the U.S. government respect their marriage by putting any deportation action against Rodrigo on hold. This effort was temporarily successful at stopping the physical deportation of Rodrigo on March 9 and it paved the way for the major development detailed below that brings new hope to this couple that their battle to stay together might finally be over.

Today we can share with you news of another major victory in this case. Baltimore Immigration Judge Lisa Dornell has ordered that Rodrigo's case be re-opened. In doing so, the judge cancels the deportation order that had been entered against him in November 2008. Instead he will return to court on September 12, 2011 for re-opened proceedings.

Judge Dornell, who had ordered Rodrigo deported in 2008, has now decided, on her own accord, that it is "in the interest of justice" to re-open proceedings and to give Rodrigo another opportunity to win protection from deportation. Specifically, Judge Dornell has re-opened proceedings (1) to determine whether Rodrigo is eligible for protection from deportation because of country conditions in El Salvador for gay men and (2) to determine the relevance, to this case, of any change in policy or law impacting married gay binational couples with pending green card petitions.

In a footnote the Judge also advised the parties to be prepared to address the DOMA immigration issues

Because Rodrigo was ordered deported in 2008, this action by the Immigration Judge is a tremendous victory.  This is the first time that efforts by Stop The Deportations have succeeded in reversing a final order of removal and re-opening proceedings.

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