Lesbian couple in limbo as immigration pilot program officially ends today

sujey and violeta pando.jpg
Sujey and Violeta.
Violeta Pando couldn't sleep last night. After all, today is the last for a six-week pilot program to review the deportation cases of all non-detained immigrants in Baltimore and Denver -- including the case of her wife, Sujey Pando. "The hours that I did sleep, which were very few, I kept dreaming about it," Violeta says. "We got denied. It was a horrible dream."

The reality may be more nerve-wracking: The Pandos, who married in Iowa in 2010, still do not know the outcome of Sujey's case. They still haven't gotten a phone call telling them whether Sujey's case will be dismissed, or whether she'll be deported.

"We're very, very nervous," Violeta says. "We don't know what to think."

Today, the Denver Post quoted a U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official as saying that though the pilot program is coming to an end, immigration judges will continue to review the 7,800 Denver cases that involve nonviolent immigrants who have strong familial ties in the U.S. -- including the cases of gays and lesbians.

But Sujey's attorney, Lavi Soloway, isn't too comforted by that news. "They are suffering," he says of the Pandos. "Every day that they go to bed at night and worry that Sujey will be deported is a day that doesn't need to happen."

Sujey came to the United States as a teenager, but was thrown out of her house when she revealed that she was gay. However, her history of abuse began long before that; Soloway says it started when she was an infant in Mexico. "This woman has been through hell and back," he says. "She has transformed herself from all of that." She now has a stable relationship with Violeta, whom she met at a gay bar in 2006. She follows the law and acts as a caretaker for a friend who was badly injured in an accident, he says.

Sujey's deportation case began in 2008 with a traffic stop. That led to an inquiry into her citizenship status and a plea for asylum in the United States. Though she and Violeta are married, federal law doesn't recognize their union. "This is exactly the kind of person we want to protect," Soloway says.

Indeed, ICE director John Morton issued a memo last year, urging "prosecutorial discretion" in certain immigration cases, such as those of young immigrants hoping to go to college and those of immigrants who are married to U.S. citizens.

For now, the Pandos are in a holding pattern. "We are waiting for an answer," Soloway says. If her case isn't dismissed as a result of the review, she'll face a hearing in court. Her last hearing was delayed in light of the announcement that the feds would conduct a review of low-priority deportation cases in which the immigrant is not a criminal.

"Your life is on hold," Violeta says of their position. "We can't really put a life together. We can't really buy a home together, we can't really move forward. We're just stuck in this spot. We can't really live our lives."

More from our Immigration archives: "Jared Polis wants investigation into abuse of LGBT immigrants in detention."

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8 comments
It's time - RIGHT NOW
It's time - RIGHT NOW

We only have the rights that we can defend.  It's about time we start defending our rights - BY FORCE - if necessary.

Stev84
Stev84

She would be an American citizen if her mother had shown some humanity. Her mother is married to an American and is thus is a citizen. Sujey was raised in Mexico by extended family (who mentally and physically abused her because of her sexuality) and then came to the US, but her mother threw her out of the house when she learned that she is gay. She could easily have sponsored her daughter but refused to

GetReal
GetReal

Bad things can happen when one breaks the law.  Either work to change laws, comply, or be good at not being caught.  But, understand that if one chooses to break the law, consequences can occur.  Why do we continue to sugar coat this?

If I were a really good bank robber, but haven't been caught for several years, would there be sympathy for me and the breaking up of my family if I were finally caught?  I doubt it.

Dingus
Dingus

If you seriously can't tell the difference between robbing a bank and a couple getting married, there is not only something wrong with you, but those who taught you to think so poorly.  If they intended for you to be that stupid, they should be in jail.

Mary Beth
Mary Beth

Get real how can you compare this to anything other than another same sex case because we have no immigration spousal sponsership rights that are enjoyec by hetro even those that go through an Russian dating service has less trouble to bring their  partner here.  Than somebody who has meet and fell in love with somebody who just happens to be from another country that is the same sex so nobody is breaking the law their hands are tied because of stupid thing called DOMA

Daniel Anaya
Daniel Anaya

How can you compare bank robbery with a child who was brought over when she was underage??  Furthermore, not every law broken makes you a criminal… does someone become a criminal when they break the law by parking in a non parking zone? Being in the US with out a status IS NOT A CRIME... it is a civil offence..  rob a bank is a crime.  I'm agree you should not come to this country if you are not allowed to but this crisis is only originated because of the system that wont allow a person to come legally. Some people have to wait for 20 years. If your family is away  I bet you'd do whatever to be with them. We need a Immigration reform that make people to chose the legal way to immigrate or just work in this country.   I bet you are not agree that being with out a status in this country should be a crime right?? Well that only makes you agree with me that immigrations laws has to change. More enforcement but also more and easier ways to immigrate legally 

GetReal
GetReal

Yet, when she was old enough to realize that she was breaking the law, she chose to continue to do so.  As I said, that option can come with consequences.

Idiots Suck
Idiots Suck

OK, I'll bet we can find enough people to make YOU against the law (or to make it NOT against the law to beat you to a pulp with a baseball bat).  Would you still be as sanguine as you are about this poor couple?  Seriously, come on by, my bat needs some exercise.

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