By Juliana Schatz
Cristina Ojeda and Monica Alcota have been married six months and are giggly and affectionate. Ojeda, who is from California, speaks English. Alcota, an Argentina native, speaks mostly in Spanish. They often finish each other’s sentences. Even when they talk about their wedding.
“I had never seen her so nervous. Nunca. She was shaking. She couldn’t put the ring on,” said Ojeda.
Alcota left Argentina on a tourist visa ten years ago, fleeing what she called daily harassment.
“You couldn’t live a normal life. You had to pretend you were someone you weren’t,” said Alcota.
She says you couldn’t live a normal life there. That you had to pretend you were someone you weren’t.
After the couple met, they commuted by bus between New York and Buffalo, where Ojeda was in graduate school. Alcota, who works in antique restoration, kept a low profile. But on their way back to New York City one night, immigration officers boarded the bus.
They arrested Alcota and took her to a detention center in Niagara Falls. Then, Ojeda was sent home.
“I came back on the bus and we just drove. I had to leave her there. I mean it was so hard because I didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Ojeda.
Eventually, Alcota was held in a facility in Elizabeth, N.J.
“You had to shower and everyone could see you. You couldn’t go to the bathroom… It was the most horrible thing that has happened to me in my life,” said Alcota.
She calls it was the worst thing that could have happened to her. She and other detainees ate, slept and showered in the same rooms.
Right after she was released, three months later, the couple went to Connecticut, one of five states in the U.S. that permit same sex marriages. After the wedding, Ojeda bid for Alcota’s I-130 form – her green card.
“But it’s going to be denied because DOMA because marriage has to be between a man and a woman,” said Ojeda.
The couple has an attorney who is trying to delay proceedings until the government decides what to do about DOMA.
But legal representation might not help them, says Arthur Leonard, a professor at New York Law School.
“There is a lot of suspicion that attaches to of people who marry under these circumstances, because the might be marriages of conveniences for the purpose of giving the foreign bliss a place to stay,” said Leonard.
Leonard, who founded the Gay and Lesbian Bar Association over thirty years ago says even though Alcota felt persecuted in Argentina, the couple will not have a strong case before an immigration judge.
The only way they would, he says, is if their marriage could be recognized federally.
“If a same sex couple is legally married they should be entitled to the same treatment as different sex couples who is legally married for purposes of the immigration laws,” said Lenoard.
Monica Alcota and Cristina Ojeda know that’s far off, but are optimistic and looking forward to their second deportation hearing in two weeks.