As we await the Supreme Court’s decision regarding same sex marriage laws and California’s proposition 8, I thought I should post some notes on the potential implications of such decision in the immigration arena. Regardless of what the Supreme Court rules, the decision will sure have important implications on same sex couples with at least one immigrant partner.
Under the current law, the Defense of Marriage Act denies federal benefits, including immigration benefits, to same sex couples. In other words, a partner in a same sex couple can not petition for another partner in a same sex relationship. This is an unfortunate limitation, especially in abusive relationships where one partner might be abusing another, and the immigrant partner is left with little or no recourse to stay in the United States. For example, the current law does not allow an abused partner to apply for benefits under the Violence Against Women Act, but might allow the alien to be the beneficiary of a U visa, which is a visa specifically allocated to victims of crimes. However, due to the reluctance of law enforcement to certify these petitions, and the potential dangerous implications on the abused spouse the chances for such a visa dwindle, and a abused partner might have no recourse at all when it comes to immigration benefits. One of the best things regarding VAWA is that the petition is reviewed by special agents at the Vermont Service Center, with the highest levels of confidentiality and protection. These same safeguards do not exist in the U visa procedures, and the abused spouse might have to testify against the abusive one. We all know the potential dangers that come with such testimony. These dangers will lead the abused spouse to stay away from reporting the abuse and will ultimately lead to a denial of immigration benefits.
The Supreme Court’s ruling will be cataclysmic decision when it comes to federal benefits for same sex couples under federal law. I believe that the current law is unfair and should be struck down, since it creates two groups that are not equal under the law. I hope that the Supreme Court will do the right things and strike down DOMA. I just read on CNN that the decision will be announced tomorrow; I am keeping my fingers crossed.