Bay Area couple Alfonso Garcia and Brian Willingham are set to be in a San Francisco immigration court this afternoon, hoping to prevent Garcia’s deportation due to his undocumented status, which was discovered during a routine traffic stop.
Garcia, who was born in Mexico and brought to the United States as a child, and Willingham, a U.S. citizen, have been together since 2001. They married last year in New York State and have a registered domestic partnership in California, but the Defense of Marriage Act prohibits the federal government from recognizing their relationship and therefore allowing Willingham to sponsor Garcia for legal residency. “If they were an opposite-sex couple, we wouldn’t have this discussion right now,” attorney Lavi Soloway, who is helping several same-sex binational couples fight deportations, told CNN.
While in their car one night last summer, Garcia and Willingham were pulled over by police, who did a background check on Garcia and found out he was an undocumented immigrant. “Within a few hours I learned that something called an ‘immigration hold’ had been placed on Alfonso’s file, so even though he was not charged with any crime by the local authorities and had no criminal record they were not allowed to release him,” Willingham wrote in a blog post for Stop the Deportations, an organization founded by Soloway. Garcia spent two weeks in a detention facility in Arizona before he was released pending today’s hearing.
Read more about the case here.