Ruling could impact deportations

June 30, 2011 at 12:14 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 30 (UPI) -- The United States says it won't deport a gay Venezuelan salsa dancer in a decision that could have an impact on immigration cases involving same-sex couples.

"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," the couple's attorney, Lavi Soloway, told The New York Times.

The case involves Henry Velandia, 27, of Princeton, N.J., who immigrated to the United States from Venezuela in 2002. He legally married Princeton graduate student Josh Vandiver, 30, in Connecticut last year.

Gay rights advocates and immigration lawyers said the decision is a major policy shift and might open the door to the cancellation of deportations for other immigrants in same-sex marriages.

The announcement comes as immigration officials instituted new guidelines regulating the deferral and cancellations of deportations -- especially for immigrants without serious criminal records.

Immigration attorneys view the case as a test of the federal government's position on the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law barring the government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

In February, Attorney General Eric H. Holder announced the U.S. government would stop defending the act in court. Holder said it is unconstitutional.

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