Philadelphia is celebrating LGBT History Month this October but for one bi-national gay couple living in South Philadelphia, October could also bring heartbreak.
The deadline has been looming over the couple since last February, when Tanumihardja was originally ordered to leave his partner, scheduled ironically on Valentine’s Day, according to CNN.
However, just three hours before his flight to Jakarta was set to leave, the Federal immigration officials gave Tanumihardja a reprieve following pleas from advocacy groups such as GLAAD, reports The Advocate.
The order granted Anton more time but did not guarantee a permanent stay.
Tanumihadja arrived in the U.S.in 2002 on a tourist visa and later applied for political asylum before being denied. Tanumihadja married Andersen in Washington D.C. in June and filed for a marriage-based green card petition according to CNN.
He cannot be sponsored for residency because under current US law, that option does not exist for same-sex couples.
Now, nearly eight months later the couple faces the same nightmare as tomorrow could be Anton’s last day in Philadelphia. Tanumihadja is worried because he says his homeland is not tolerant of gay people. With a degree in accounting and marketing, he works at Coventry Deli in Center City where he also doubles as the bookkeeper.
“He is a gay man who has had the opportunity to live openly as a gay man in Philadelphia. And now he's going back to live where in order to survive, you cannot be open," Lavi Soloway, the couple’s attorney told CNN in February.
In August, the Obama administration announced that bi-national gay couples may be considered lower-priority cases in the overwhelmed immigration system as reported by the Advocate.
Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, announced a case-by-case review was to be enforced by an intra-agency working group that would evaluate unresolved deportation orders. An unnamed senior administration official later clarified to the Advocate “that cases deemed low-priority can include those of individuals with strong community ties, with community contributions, and with family relationships. We consider LGBT families to be families in this context."
The couple is obviously fearful about being separated. “I don’t want to believe it’s going to happen” Andersen told CNN.
A letter signed by 69 members of Congress sent Napolitano and Attorney Gerneal Eric Holder urges Congress to reconsider LGBT family ties in deportation cases.
A documentary titled “Entry Denied,” which is in post-production, aims to raise the level of awareness on what couples like Anderson and Tanumihardja are facing.
“I’ll try to fight until the last minute,” Tanumihardja tells CNN.
And that last minute is upon him; Andersen and Tanumihardja meet with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers tomorrow.
UPDATE: The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Philadelphia has rejected Anton Tamumihardja’s deferred action request to stay in the United States with his husband Brian Andersen.
A “deferred action” request allows individuals who meet particular conditions to stay in the country even though they are technically deportable.
The October 7th ruling seems to contradict guidelines issued by the Obama administration which assures same-sex binational couples to be considered lower-priority deportation cases.
Tamumihardja meets the conditions to be a low priority case as he is legally married, has strong community ties and no criminal record, Andersen told the Advocate. The criteria is based on a memo released from ICE director, John Morton in June.
Lavi Soloway,Tanumihardja’s lawyer, expressed his disappoint in ICE’s decision, “The Obama administration made a commitment to stop deportations that would tear apart families, including gay and lesbian couples, and yet in its decision the ICE office in Philadelphia is failing to make good on that commitment.”
A case-by-case review by an intra-agency working group for pending deportation orders was announced on August 18th by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. The review has not yet begun, according to the Advocate.
Tamumihardja is to be deported by January unless there is some intervention by the DHS or an immigration appeals board.