Gay Stays in Deportation Cases

A new criteria may benefit same-sex couples

Earlier this year we told you about the story of Anton Tunumihardja, a Philly resident who faced deportation to his native Indonesia after his application for asylum was initially denied. Tunumihardja had been living and working in Philadelphia for almost a decade and had been in a relationship with partner Brian Andersen, a U.S. citizen.

Fortunately, the 42-year-old gay man was granted a stay at the last minute. But in a new memo issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, gay couples like Tunumihardja and Andersen may face better prospects if the federal government begins taking same-sex relationships into consideration.

Officials are now saying that marriage and community ties – among several other factors – will be considered on a case-by-case basis. The memo states that a person seeking asylum will be considered if he or she “has a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, child or parent.”

The federal guidelines list 19 criteria in total that are to be weighed when it comes to deportation. LGBT groups are asking the department to specify whether the definition of “spouse” also includes same-sex partners, possibly making the push for marriage equality an even more pressing issue for many international couples.

Other factors that could be favorable to gay asylum seekers include:

-a person’s length of time in the U.S.

-family in the U.S.

-circumstances of arrival

-educational background in the U.S.

-whether someone’s family has served in the U.S. military

-criminal history

-whether the person could face danger if returned to his or her native country

“There are at least three provisions that will prove to be very important for LGBT deportation cases,” explains Lavi Soloway, an LGBT immigration attorney who represents Tunumihardja and cofounder of Stop the Deportations, “consideration of the person’s ties to the country of origin and conditions there; consideration of the person’s ties to the community, including family relationships; and consideration of whether the person has a spouse, parent or child who is a U.S. citizen or green card holder.”