Scroll To Top
Law

Trump's Policies Tried to Tear This Gay Father and Son Apart — The Dad Won

Trump's Policies Tried to Tear This Gay Father and Son Apart — The Dad Won

Jerome Roux photos

After help from a U.S. congressman, a three-year ordeal has come to an end for Jerome Roux.

A French gay single father of an American infant, who has lived in the United States for more than 15 years, has won a long battle surrounding his immigration status. The victory brings years of uncertainty to a close, including the terror of potential separation from his son. To get here, he risked a successful career in the beauty industry and asked an elected leader for help, something that many immigrants are not afforded

Last month, Jerome Roux discovered an email that left him overjoyed. His attorneys notified him that his unconditional permanent resident card was approved, ending his three-year-long personal nightmare. Now Roux credits gay U.S. Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney for the favorable resolution.

Roux, 44, moved to the U.S. from Paris in 2007 on an employer-sponsored visa for a position with American beauty giant Coty Prestige in New York City. He spent several years growing his career, eventually working for L'Oreal and Gap Inc. At Coty, among the list of his achievements, Roux is credited by top executives for the success of the Jennifer Lopez beauty brand.

"He developed the Jennifer Lopez brand that achieved unprecedented sales results and ultimately catapulted our division to new heights," former Coty Prestige CEO Michele Scannavini wrote in a letter of support for Roux's visa application.

In an interview with The Advocate, Roux says he eventually applied for and received a self-sponsored O-1 visa for his talents in business, specifically, global and brand marketing. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, this type of visa is for people with extraordinary abilities or achievements.

In 2010, Roux met his now ex-husband, Jared Zuckerman, and after the two were married in 2015, he applied for and was issued a conditional marriage-based green card, in 2016.

Roux became senior vice president of global marketing at Calvin Klein in 2017, where he spearheaded what he calls Calvin Klein's highest-performing campaign in history featuring all of the Kardashian-Jenner sisters.

Enjoying his success and relationship, Roux and his husband had explored and begun the adoption process but put things on hold when Zuckerman didn't want to become a father, Roux says.

As part of standard procedure, several years after an initial green card was issued, Roux says USCIS requested more information to verify the legitimacy of the marriage.

In 2018, he filed for a replacement green card and removal of the conditions of his permanent residency. Roux blames former President Donald Trump's successful effort to cut legal immigration for what happened next. (Forbesreported that Trump cut legal immigration by 49 percent between 2017 and 2020.)

In a letter from USCIS dated March 25, 2019 and reviewed by The Advocate, the agency denied Roux's application for a green card replacement. Since the conditions of his residency remained in place, he was not eligible to receive a card, the letter stated. Roux says that the agency then began challenging the validity of his marriage.

That November, Roux says, he and Zuckerman divorced because Roux was ready to have children and his partner was not.

The Advocate attempted to reach Zuckerman for comment, but did not hear back by the time of publishing.

USCIS officials acknowledged receiving federal and state tax returns, identity documents, a marriage license, and photographs as evidence of a good faith marriage but requested additional evidence in a January 14, 2020 letter. The letter asked for items related to children, proof of a shared residence, financial and insurance documents, affidavits from third parties with firsthand knowledge of the marital relationship's bona fides, and "any other relevant documents not already mentioned."

Roux says that through his attorneys at top immigration law firm Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, he submitted dozens of documents supporting the legitimacy of his marriage. The Advocate has reviewed many of these documents and verified their authenticity.

Roux says he found himself single, gay, and still wanting nothing more than to be a father. So he explored surrogacy as an option and eventually employed the services of a surrogacy agency after moving to California.

That June, in response to an April 27 letter from USCIS requesting more evidence, including the couple's final divorce order, Roux says he submitted the applicable documents as requested and more.

"I sent so much in quantity but also in quality," Roux says, "including papers for child adoption my ex-spouse and I had attempted and more than 20 affidavits with letters from my ex-husband, his family members, and even one from our couple's therapist we were seeing before our divorce."

Roux says three months later, in September, he attended an in-person appointment at a USCIS office in L.A. He says in that meeting, the agent confiscated his green card and told him they wouldn't return it, leaving him shocked.

"Instead, I got a stamp in my passport," Roux said. "It would allow me to work again, but it ultimately expired, and USCIS didn't follow through to renew it."

Roux became undocumented after hearing nothing from USCIS.

Unable to work, Roux lost his source of income and soon could no longer afford his lawyers.

"My prior employers hired and paid for my attorneys, and they didn't have to do that," Roux says. "I appreciate what they did for me."

At another meeting, he says he was berated by USCIS personnel.

"The agent kept me for a very long time and bombarded me with tons of questions with a very clear intention to intimidate and destabilize me," Roux said. "Surprisingly, at the end, though, she said she had never seen so m[uch] viable evidence from what I had already sent."

He said the agent told him that he didn't need to submit anything else given how much he had already provided.

"She remained very pessimistic for me because those officers were claiming the marriage was a fraud to get my green card," Roux says she told him. And, he says, the officer advised him that he would receive a letter within three months indicating whether he would be deported or about the next steps.

In August 2021, Roux's son, Phoenix, was born.

With the love of his newborn son fresh, Roux says he felt like he had reached the end of his rope. He says that last October, some friends encouraged him to contact elected leaders for help.

Roux says he reached out to Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of New York for assistance engaging with the federal agency, and has been working with his staff regularly to bring his case to a resolution.

Roux says that after Maloney got involved, the agency finally responded to his appeals and promptly rendered a decision in his case.

Now Roux awaits a resolution in his son's citizenship dispute with the French government.

The Advocatecontacted the French Embassy in Washington to inquire about Roux's case. According to a justice attache, while she couldn't comment directly on Roux's case, she said generally there was no denial but rather a delay in transcriptions and that when Roux was working on his son's citizenship paperwork, the French government began implementing guidelines for a new bioethics law. That process, she said, caused a brief delay, which should have been resolved after regulations were put in place last October.

The new law allows single women and lesbians in France to access medically assisted reproductive care. In addition, it established a pathway for children born to French parents through surrogacy in other countries for legal recognition under French civil law.

The statute, however, still does not allow for two men to access this type of medical care because it would involve surrogacy and surrogacy is so controversial in France, that it is illegal.

"Surrogacy is not permitted in France," a French government official told The Advocate in a statement. "Surrogacy is considered contrary to human dignity in our country; also, monetizing any part of [the] human body is prohibited in France."

To solve the issue of French citizens going to foreign countries and having children through surrogacy, the law created a legal pathway to citizenship.

"Respectful of domestic and international laws regarding the right to respect for family and private life, France recognizes the filiation of children born in a foreign country where surrogacy is possible...by granting an adoptive filiation," the official said.

He noted that adoptive and "natural" filiation are strictly the same under French law in terms of effects, rights and obligations.

Roux says he finds it to be ridiculous that he must adopt his own biological child, but that he will resubmit an application with the French consulate soon, once he can afford the attorneys.

For now, Roux is happy to be able to spend quality time with Phoenix without worrying about the future. And he says that he knows that he couldn't have done it without Maloney's support.

"Congressman Maloney and his team didn't have to do what they did to help me," Roux said.

For his part, Maloney is pleased with the outcome in Roux's case and says his office is willing to help others with similar circumstances.

"The best part about serving in Congress is the real people we are able to help every day," Maloney said in a statement to The Advocate. "Jerome deserved fair and honest treatment by our USCIS officers, and I'm proud that my office was able to help him get that."

A spokesperson for USCIS said that while the agency does not comment on individual cases out of practice and privacy considerations, the agency is committed to inclusivity.

"The agency's mission reflects the inclusive character of both our country and USCIS, and every day we provide immigration services with fairness, integrity, and respect for all we serve," USCIS spokesperson Matthew Bourke said in an emailed statement to The Advocate.

As for the Trump-era policies, Aaron Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality, said during an interview with The Advocate that most were outrageous and many were illegal.

Immigration Equality recently won four court cases for children of same-sex couples denied U.S. citizenship only because their parents were gay. Morris says that while most of the policies predated Trump, the Biden administration only recently unwound some.

According to Morris, many challenges for LGBTQ+ couples exist that could pose difficulties with the immigration process.

Even if the government applies the same standard to same-sex and different-sex couples, LGBTQ+ immigrants still face significant challenges navigating the immigration process, he said.

"There can be a real hurdle in satisfying the evidentiary record," Morris said. "I would say that a lot of USCIS officers are sympathetic to that fact, but there are sometimes cases in which they do seem to expect an awful lot from people who have legitimate relationships but might have a difficult time securing traditional documents that one might expect of them if they were a different-sex couple."

Biden administration officials told The Advocate that USCIS is working to repair the trust it lost with immigrant communities regarding those Trump-era policies.

"USCIS remains committed to increasing access to eligible immigration benefits, breaking down barriers in the immigration system, and restoring faith and trust with our immigrant communities," Bourke said.

For his part, Roux says that he was so used to the uncertainty he had been living with for years that he hasn't been able to process the news.

"It's all a bit overwhelming," Roux says. "But I am delighted, and I thank Congressman Maloney for his help and for the help of his staff, who were great."

Roux says he believes that it's essential for LGBTQ+ community representation in powerful places like Congress because of the importance of being heard.

Maloney, who is in his fourth term in Congress, told The Advocate that his office is always willing to help and that constituents should call for assistance.

"Any constituent in need of assistance should know that they can call my office at (845) 561-1259 for the same help," Maloney says. "We're here to make sure the government works for you."

Roux says that he understands that unlike most, he's fortunate to have had the resources necessary and the privilege to take on the government.

That's why, he says, it's important to him that other LGBTQ+ people, immigrants and parents of children born through surrogacy are aware of the potential challenges and that they have advocates in the government.

"I understand that my case is that of an individual, but it's not unique," he says. "And if I can get someone at the White House or in Congress to keep a list or take an interest in this, then that will be a good thing."

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Magazine - Gus Kenworthy

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories