Massachusetts Daily Collegian

For better, for worse

By DailyCollegian.com Staff

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Monica Alcota should have the right to live with her spouse.

The 35-year-old Argentine woman first came to the United States on a tourist visa, according to CNN, allowing her to stay in the country for a short time before returning to South America. But true love got in the way: Alcota met and fell for an American, whom she then married and fully intended to live with. Not a problem, right? A foreigner marrying an American is usually granted permanent residence in the United States, as long as the marriage is legitimate. Even if the foreign spouse is an illegal immigrant, the marriage entitles the spouse to legal residency. Alcota overstayed her tourist visa while courting her love, but by marrying an American citizen, her undocumented status would be negated by a green card.

There’s just one small catch.

Alcota is a lesbian, and her marriage was to 25-year-old Cristina Ojeda, another woman. Though Alcota and Ojeda were legally married in the state of Connecticut, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act prevents recognition of the marriage by the federal government of the United States – the same federal government of the United States that issues green cards to married immigrants. Alcota was ineligible for legal residence because as far as the government was concerned, she was not legally married.

On the brink of deportation, Alcota was saved when President Barack Obama announced that the Justice Department would no longer defend DOMA in court, CNN reported. The constitutionality of the law is being challenged in court by several equal marriage rights groups, and while the fate of the law is decided, the judge presiding over Alcota’s case decided to put it on hold.

These legal troubles are typical of same-sex couples seeking immigration benefits, which is a troubling situation in a country that prides itself on its long, diverse history of immigration.

This hidden effect of DOMA robs the United States of positive contributors to the community and the economy, all on the basis of their sexual orientation. Ironically, Alcota had first come to the United States to seek a community more accepting of her orientation. She has lived in the US for over 10 years and had never attracted the attention of immigration officials until border patrol agents randomly stopped a bus she and Ojeda were riding from Buffalo to New York City.

Why deport someone so harmless? A straight immigrant in Monica’s situation certainly would not be shipped back to their former country. This shows the double-standard the federal government holds gays and lesbians to, a double-standard that can only be considered discriminatory as it robs people like Alcota of rights afforded straight immigrants.

The situation is compounded by Alcota’s illegal status in the U.S. There are those who would argue a straight immigrant in Alcota’s situation should not, in fact, be afforded legal residency, for no other reason than she is illegal. The term “illegal immigrant” has become a loaded one in American popular culture, bringing to mind stereotypical implications of border-hopping and job theft. The legal issues surrounding immigrants like Alcota, however, are quite nuanced. An “illegal immigrant” like Alcota has not actually committed a crime by overstaying her visa; visa overstay is a civil offense, not a criminal one. Civil law is the same type of law that deals with traffic tickets, and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who would argue a person should be deported because they were caught speeding home to catch “Glee.”

Even an immigrant who had committed a crime to get to America, though, deserves sympathy for wanting to stay and live with his or her love. Though the system is occasionally abused by so-called “green card marriages,” where an illegal immigrant marries someone they do not care for just to get legal residency, it also provides an avenue for illegal immigrants to start families and become positive, stable contributors in the community.

Gay and lesbian illegal immigrants deserve that same chance – by achieving legal residency through their marriage, they too can contribute to the community they live in, which is a net benefit for the country the United States should be encouraging, not preventing.

Standing in the way of gay and lesbian immigrants’ rights looms DOMA, an outdated law that continues to be defended by social conservatives in the Republican Party. After President Obama instructed Attorney General Eric Holder to stop defending DOMA in court, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to have the House General Counsel do so instead.

In the meantime, Alcota and Ojeda are enjoying life together as a happily married couple in New York. They know, though, that they have the support of many who don’t want such a loving couple torn apart by a cold, uncaring government.

Billy Rainsford is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]

1 Comment

One Response to “For better, for worse”

  1. Ben on April 13th, 2011 4:51 am

    “Alcota was ineligible for legal residence because as far as the government was concerned, she was not legally married.”

    And she’s not. Not in the eyes of the federal government.

    “On the brink of deportation, Alcota was saved when President Barack Obama announced that the Justice Department would no longer defend DOMA in court, CNN reported.”

    Another blow to the rule of law and a victory for the capricious, arbitrary enforcement that’s become so common in the Obama era. See the “New Black Panther Party” and “voter intimidation” for more on that.

    “Why deport someone so harmless?”

    Because she’s in the country illegally. That was an easy one!

    “The term “illegal immigrant” has become a loaded one in American popular culture, bringing to mind stereotypical implications of border-hopping and job theft.”

    Yes, so let’s stop using that term! Let’s think of a nicer term, one that makes people forget that these people broke into our country. By the way, they “bring to mind” images of border-hopping and job theft because that’s what they do.

    “Even an immigrant who had committed a crime to get to America, though, deserves sympathy for wanting to stay and live with his or her love.”

    No, they don’t. They deserve to be deported.

    I really wanted to puke when I read this awful article. Homosexual illegal aliens are being deported! Yeah, good. Connecticut may recognize these faux “marriages” but that doesn’t give them the authority to impose that on the rest of the country which has voted time and time again not to recognize them.

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