New ruling could earn gay couples green cards

A Supreme Court hearing on March 27 could change immigration laws for same-sex couples. The hearing will challenge the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that currently states that marriage is between one man and one woman. DOMA denies benefits to same-sex couples and does not recognize gay marriage in individual states. If DOMA is opposed by the Supreme Court, this could mean benefits for gay couples, including the right to receive a green card for a foreign-born partner.

This ruling could help immigrant couples like Santiago Ortiz and Pablo Garcia, who spoke to ABC about their struggles living an undocumented life and Garcia’s inability to travel to visit his sick mother in Venezuela or work in the United States due to green card restrictions.

“We believe that, if the High Court finds DOMA unconstitutional, that couples like Pablo and Santiago will be immediately eligible to petition for all federal benefits including immigration status,” Steve Ralls,a spokesman for the Immigration Equality advocacy group, told ABC. “And Immigration Equality is prepared on the day that ruling comes to begin asking for green cards on behalf of families.”

The Supreme Court case, called United States v. Windsor, will debate whether Congress can pass laws that treat married same-sex couples differently than opposite-sex couples. While the case doesn’t consider the constitutionality of gay marriage itself, the ruling against DOMA could help immigrants like Ortiz and Garcia. Since the federal government doesn’t recognize the two men as a couple, Garcia cannot get a green card. He has been living in New York City for more than 20 years without papers.

“It has been a long, long struggle to survive like this as a couple,” Garcia told ABC. “I am very proud, very, very proud. Through my life and our lives, I’ve realized it’s important to say what you are, like, this is me.”