San Francisco News

Married gay couple fights off deportation, for now

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A gay couple fighting deportation because the government doesn't recognize their marriage won a small victory Thursday. Their case, along with others, is being tested in the federal immigration courts.

Alfonso Garcia and Brian Willingham have been together for more than 10 years. Both arrived at an immigration hearing in San Francisco to try to stop Garcia's deportation proceedings.

"We got married in New York last year in August and we're now asking the United States government to treat our marriage with the same respect they treat all other marriages," Brian Willingham said.

Garcia was born in Mexico but has lived in the Bay Area most of his life. "My parents brought me here when I was 14-years-old so I've been living in the Bay Area ever since then, almost 21 years here in the Bay Area," he said.

His parents eventually got green cards. His sister is a U.S. citizen which means Garcia can ask for a green card through one of them. He has, except that there is a 10 to 20-year waiting period. "The government is still processing applications from 1996 even though we're in 2012, so the backlog for sibling petitions is just absolutely incredible," Willingham said.

But because they are now married, typically the process of getting a green card is expedited. Although, the federal immigration court doesn't recognize gay marriages under the federal Defense Of Marriage Act, known as "DOMA." This means Garcia still faces deportation. "I don't see myself going to Mexico. We don't talk about that," Willingham said. "It's something we don't even want to think about," Garcia said when asked what would happen if he was deported.

But Thursday, the judge put the issue of their marriage status aside, putting Garcia's deportation on hold for six months while he waits for his green card application to be reviewed. "That is exactly how any other married couple would be treated in this context and that is all they were hoping to achieve by going into court, was to be treated equally and with respect," said attorney Lavi Soloway.

In the meantime, their wait continues. "You never know what they might come up with later on. It's just something that is still there," Garcia said.

The federal law which says marriage is between a man and a woman is being challenged on constitutional grounds and a number of rulings are expected this summer.

The Immigration Review Office did not return call from ABC7 Thursday.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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lgbt, same sex marriage, san francisco news, lyanne melendez
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