Gay couple Josh Vandiver and Henry
Velandia say they're relieved that a federal immigration judge has
canceled Velandia's deportation.
The New Jersey couple on Wednesday was
informed that Velandia's deportation proceedings had been closed.
Velandia, a citizen of Venezuela who
immigrated to the United States in 2002, married Vandiver, 30, in
Connecticut last year.
Previously, the couple was told that
because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law that
prohibits the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages
of gay and lesbian couples, the United States would not recognize the
couple's marriage and would not allow Vandiver to sponsor his husband
for citizenship, as a U.S. citizen in a heterosexual marriage would
be allowed to do.
“I can start breathing now after so
many months of fighting,” Velandia, 27, a salsa dancer, told
The New York Times. “I was holding my breath for fear
of any moment being sent away.”
The couple's attorney, Lavi Soloway,
cheered the news.
“This action shows that the
government has not only the power but the inclination to do the right
thing when it comes to protecting certain vulnerable populations from
deportation,” Soloway told the Times.
The action underscores the Obama
administration's evolving approach to DOMA. In February, the
administration decided it would no longer defend the law in court
because officials believe the law is unconstitutional, prompting
House Republicans to pick up where the Department of Justice had left
off. Since then, the administration has taken an increasingly narrow
interpretation of the law.
According to Soloway, the government
dropped the case because Velandia's deportation “is not an
enforcement priority at this time.”