Philly couple awaits immigration answers
by Jen Colletta
Sep 29, 2011 | 2990 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A local same-sex couple immersed in an immigration battle could see either progress or another setback next week in their fight to stay together.

Anton Tanumihardja and husband Brian Andersen are scheduled for a visit with the local branch of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Oct. 7, at which time the couple could learn whether the pending deportation order against Tanumihardja will be executed.

Tanumihardja, a native of Indonesia, has been living in the United States since 2002. Originally on a tourist visa, Tanumihardja applied unsuccessfully several times for asylum, citing persecution faced by LGBTs in his home country, but was ordered to be deported last Valentine’s Day.

Just hours before his flight, however, the Department of Homeland Security granted the couple a reprieve pending Tanumihardja’s repeat asylum application to the Board of Immigration Appeals. However, in late May the BIA refused the motion and issued a “final order of removal” that could lead to Tanumihardja’s deportation.

Tanumihardja and Andersen, together since the summer of 2010, were wed in June in Washington, D.C. This past summer, Tanumihardja again appealed the BIA decision, citing ineffective legal representation on previous appeals, the media surrounding his case that could further threaten his safety should he be deported, and his recent legal marriage — which, if it were not for the Defense of Marriage Act, would enable Andersen to sponsor him for citizenship.

During a required check-in with ICE late last month, the couple submitted another request — a consideration for “deferred action,” based on new guidelines outlined by DHS this past summer.

Deferred action would nullify the order of removal until DHS decides to resume the proceedings.

According to the August memorandum from DHS secretary Janet Napolitano, the agency will review pending deportation cases and administratively close those deemed low priority — based on such factors as community ties and familial relationships, which officials have signaled could include same-sex relationships.

A coalition of 69 Congressmembers this week issued a letter to Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder urging DHS to make it explicitly clear to immigration agencies that same-sex relationships are to be included among the family ties considered for determining the priority of a deportation case.

Among the signatories is Pennsylvania Congressman Michael Doyle (D-14th Dist.).

Andersen said Tanumihardja’s deportation officer conferred with a higher-up after the couple submitted the request and said officials needed until Oct. 7 to respond.

“It’s such a new policy that they seemed a bit unsure of how to respond to it,” Andersen said. “They basically said there’s a lot to go over, and they didn’t seem negative or positive, just said that it was something they needed to consider.”

In the meantime, the couple is urging LGBTs and allies to contact their elected officials, including Sen. Bob Casey (D) and Congressman Bob Brady, to urge the lawmakers to press ICE for the deferred-action ruling.

Until next week, the couple will be on edge, Andersen said, waiting for a call that could ease their worries.

“It’s very nerve-wracking,” he said. “Every day they could call us so we’re almost literally just sitting by the phone waiting for that to happen.”

Jen Colletta can be reached at jen@epgn.com.

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