Gay Binational Couple Fights Feds
A Mexican-born San Francisco man is being held in Pennsylvania for a visa violation while his husband, a U.S. citizen, tries to get him out.
The dilemma facing Pedro "Antonio" Ayon Garcia, 45, and Brad Frazier, 44, who’ve been together for 10 years, comes just as same-sex couples are finally allowed to marry in California and the federal government starts recognizing the rights of binational couples. It also seems to point to ineptitude within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Frazier said.
"We’ve spent our whole relationship doing what we can to legitimize ourselves, but those options just weren’t there," said Frazier. But finally, in late June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down California’s Proposition 8 same-sex marriage ban as well as a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex unions.
"Now that those options are there, and it’s what we’ve wanted the whole time, there’s a federal agency standing in the way, and it is so bureaucracy-laden they can’t even take a look at the story and the humans involved and say, ’Oh, this is easily solvable,’" he said.
The couple isn’t legally married but they registered as domestic partners in 2011 and refer to each other as husbands.
Their 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 DHS 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, which Frazier shared with the Bay Area Reporter.
Frazier said in a fact sheet that when Garcia tried to return to California, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents "nabbed" him, and he was taken to a Southern California facility "where he was coerced to blindly sign" what "turned out to be a voluntary deportation document."
Garcia tried to claim asylum based on his sexual orientation, but after he was held for more than a day, he was sent back to Mexico.
His next attempt was June 28 - the same day the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a stay that allowed same-sex marriages to immediately resume in California. That order came two days after the Supreme Court announced its Prop 8 decision.
This time, Garcia tried to enter the U.S. through Arizona. ICE agents took him into custody again. The "authorities acknowledged his request for asylum," stated Frazier, and extended his incarceration. Frazier said Garcia doesn’t have a criminal record and that he’d gone back to Mexico multiple times on his visa, which he’d had for at least 20 years. He was recently moved from Arizona to Pennsylvania.
The couple didn’t marry in 2008, during the brief period when such marriages were first legal in California, because "we knew at that point that that was not going to stick, and we wanted to leave our options open," said Frazier. They had even considered Garcia marrying a woman, a union that typically would be recognized by the government.
Frazier suspects his husband’s detention is a mix of prejudice and ICE being a bureaucratic mess.
"Because ICE is so large, they simply see these people as numbers," he said. "If they would simply stop and look at the file and read what’s going on, it could be solved so quickly, because there is a solution - marriage."