DENVER – New immigration guidelines from the Homeland Security Department helped a lesbian couple get more time to fight a deportation case in Colorado, their attorney said Friday.
Attorney Lavi Soloway said Denver immigration Judge Mimi Tsankov told the court that lawyers from both sides of the case should take additional time to review the case in light of an announcement by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday that illegal immigrants without a criminal record could be allowed to stay in the country if they face deportation. Soloway said the judge also cited recent questions surrounding a law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Soloway said his client Sujey Pando was expecting a ruling in her case Friday, but Napolitano’s announcement won them more time.
“It definitely impacted the courtroom and I think to some extent it mellowed the position of the trial attorney,” Soloway said. “This was a Hail Mary pass and we got very, very lucky that this hearing was scheduled the day after Napolitano’s statement.”
Pando now has a hearing in January and he said he will argue she should be allowed to stay because her spouse, Violeta Pando, is a U.S. citizen. The couple married in Iowa last November.
Soloway said before Napolitano’s announcement he expected Pando was going to be deported, or that the government would have appealed the ruling had she been allowed to stay.
Napolitano announced Thursday that the department will focus on deporting illegal immigrants who are criminals or pose a threat to national security or public safety and those who have no criminal record could be allowed to stay and apply for a work permit.
Sujay Pando came to the attention of immigration officials when she was pulled over in 2008 for a traffic violation.
Napolitano announced the plan in a letter to a group of senators who support revamping the immigration system. Under the change, approximately 300,000 deportation cases pending in immigration court will be reviewed case by case.
The decision- which sparked an outcry from Republicans- came amid protests from immigrant communities and others that the administration has been too focused on deporting people whose only offense is being in the country without the proper documents or who have been arrested for traffic violations or other misdemeanors.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement referred questions about the case to the Department of Homeland Security. Officials there did not immediately return a call for comment after hours Friday.
In May, Attorney General Eric Holder set aside the ruling of an immigration judicial panel in the deportation case of Paul Wilson Dorman, a gay man illegally in the U.S. who wants to stay with his partner, whom he married in a civil union in New Jersey.
Holder asked the panel to reconsider the case, and whether Dorman’s civil union or same-sex partnership would qualify him as a spouse under immigration law were it not for the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Obama administration has declined to defend in court. It defines marriage as between a man and woman.