SF Binational Couple Reunited
A same-sex binational couple from San Francisco reunited and married recently after an immigration ordeal ended.
Federal officials had held Mexican-born Pedro "Antonio" Ayon Garcia, 45, since June. Garcia, who's lived in San Francisco with U.S. citizen Brad Frazier, 44, for more than a decade, was detained after trying to return to the U.S. from a trip to Mexico.
Garcia, who had most recently been held in Pennsylvania, had a credible fear interview July 25. He found out the next day, July 26, that he was to be paroled, and he was released that day.
Officials found that because of Garcia's sexual orientation, there was "credible fear that returning to Mexico would endanger his life," said Frazier in response to emailed questions this week.
The couple married August 2 in Provincetown, Massachusetts. They returned to San Francisco last week after honeymooning in Provincetown.
Frazier and Garcia's trouble started June 2 as Garcia was returning from a visit to his mother in Mexicali, Mexico. He was stopped as he crossed from Mexicali to Calexico, California, Frazier said in a summary.
According to Department of Homeland Security records, Garcia presented a DSP-150 visitor's visa to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer and admitted that he'd been living and working in the United States without the proper visa.
Eventually, he also "admitted living with his boyfriend in San Francisco" for the past decade, the documents say. His visa was canceled and he returned to Mexico, according to the file.
On June 28, Garcia, who didn't have a criminal record, tried to enter the U.S. through Arizona, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents took him into custody. Authorities "acknowledged his request for asylum," according to Frazier, and extended his incarceration. He was eventually moved from Arizona to Pennsylvania. Both states ban same-sex marriage.
Garcia doesn't need to be sponsored for his green card, which designates him as a permanent resident, said Frazier.
"He was released on his own merit, because they found credible fear that returning to Mexico would endanger his life," said Frazier. "Now that Antonio is married to a U.S. citizen, this trumps everything. He will be given a green card, because he is married to a U.S. citizen. This now gives him two different pathways to obtain a green card and later citizenship."
The couple had been registered as domestic partners since 2011. Frazier had pressed for Garcia to be extradited to a California facility so that the couple could be married and Garcia could be released on bond.
On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8 same-sex marriage ban. Two days later - the same day that ICE took Garcia into custody after he tried to enter the country through Arizona - the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed same-sex marriages to immediately resume in California.
Frazier and Garcia's ordeal had taken place despite outgoing DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano's announcement last year that she planned to direct ICE to issue guidance to field offices codifying that LGBT family ties would be recognized in immigration cases. She said after the Supreme Court decision in June that officials would begin reviewing immigration petitions for same-sex couples the same as for opposite-sex couples.
Asked about why the couple married in Massachusetts, Frazier said, in part, "Since we were already near there when I flew to meet him in [Pennsylvania], we thought it a special way to celebrate our newly won right to marry. Provincetown is extremely gay-friendly and marriage oriented. We also didn't want to wait. We had waited for nearly 10 years to be legally wed and recognized. We were anxious to join the ranks of real living, breathing, recognized relationships in this country. It does make a difference to be able to legally call someone your husband."
Frazier attributed his husband's release to attorney Steve Shaiken and to Garcia.
"I cannot guess for sure, but I think making noise on his behalf by the lawyer, and Antonio continuing to make noise from the inside, helped the process," said Frazier. "The squeaky wheel gets the grease."