DACA Recipient Stranded in Mexico Sues to Be Reunited With Same-Gender Spouse

Lawyers representing a gay married DREAMer who was denied a green card are suing the federal government to ensure the man can return to the US from Mexico where he has been stranded.

Marco Villada has lived in the United States since he was six years old, went to school in California and now works there as a valued legal assistant at a California law firm. Villada has received a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status and has complied with and met all other regulations asked of him.

In 2014 he married his same-gender partner Israel Serrato, who is legally recognized as a US citizen.

Despite all this, Villada is currently stranded in Mexico after consulate officials denied his application for a spouse visa and prevented him from reentering the only country he has ever called home.

“I’m an American stuck in the wrong country,” Villada told Washington Blade. “I don’t belong here. I belong in Los Angeles. My husband, my family, my job, my life — everything is there. This isn’t just hard on us, it’s impacting our family, Marco’s coworkers, and so many other people in our lives. But despite all of this, we remain hopeful that our government will do the right thing and we will be together at home again soon.”

The couple are the plaintiffs in a new lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, which points out several facts that show how US regulations effectively trapped Villada.

Firstly — and by no means the least of their problems — Villada and Serrato have had to navigate the complex and rapidly-changing laws surrounding immigration status and same-gender marriage.

They have been trying to have Villada’s status adjusted for several years now amid broader legal fights like the Proposition 8 ruling in California and the Supreme Court of the United States’s decisions that legalized marriage equality across the US.

Regardless, Villada was covered under the DACA program and allowed to work in the US until 2019, provided that he stayed in the country until that time.

To try to finally obtain a change in status, the couple decided to go down the green card route. That meant that Villada and Serrato would need to travel to the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

The couple petitioned for and were granted a provisional waiver to allow them to leave the US and travel to the consulate in Mexico so that Villada could have his interview but have his DACA status remain.

The lawsuit alleges that at no point was Villada notified that if the spousal visa was denied, his DACA status would be terminated, but that is precisely what happened.

US officials reportedly found Villada ”permanently inadmissible” because he had previously left the US briefly in 2000 following his grandfather’s death. He had been allowed back into the US after a period of just a few weeks after showing immigration officials his high school ID card.

The consulate argued that this disclosure meant that Villada had broken immigration rules. He was therefore automatically barred from reentering.

This, his lawyers argue, is a clear misreading of the law that characterizes Villada as having illegally re-entered the US when, in fact, he was granted readmission precisely because he was living and going to school in California — as he had for nearly all of his life.

They argue this should not have been used to deny Villada’s application for a spousal visa and certainly should not have been grounds to bar him from reentering the US with his lawful husband.

The state department has declined to comment on this lawsuit, but Crissel Rodriguez, Southern California regional coordinator at the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, says this is typical of the Trump White House immigration policy and what it is doing to families.

“We have a president who chooses to attack and tweet about undocumented youth and fails to provide solutions that can keep families and communities safe. Immigrant rights are an LGBTQ issue; more than 75,500 Dreamers identify as LGBTQ and over 36,000 of them have benefited from DACA.”

This separation has caused hardship for Serrato who has had to move out of the house he and Villada shared.

In addition, Villada says that he does not feel safe in the city where he is being forced to stay in Mexico, arguing that as a gay man in a conservative area, this arrangement puts him at real risk of being targeted for discrimination and, potentially, even violence.

This is just one of several lawsuits attempting to challenge the Trump administration and immigration authorities over the current crackdown on DACA recipients and their families, policies that, as we see here, are literally tearing families apart.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.


Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill8 months ago

Since DACA was illegal in the first place, they have no standing. Obama said 2 dozen times he did not have the authority to do it, until he was going out the door.

Maureen G
Maureen G8 months ago

I wish all involved a happy ending to this issue.

Janis K
Janis K8 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Megan S
Megan S9 months ago

Living wherever the hell you want is NOT a basic human right... It is foolish for a man to feel badly done because he doesn't get to keep the life he made for himself when he knew fully well that he was breaking the law while doing it. If he'd got a visa before coming and followed the rules in the first place then he wouldn't have to suffer the consequences.

Christina S
Past Member 9 months ago

Good morning Mary... This is what you had to say to me in your first post, lest you have forgotten... " Diane L and Christina S. You are misinformed fools."
"If you put what YOU think the LAWS are above the lives if this man, may the same happen to you very soon."
"And besides that, OUR ancesters stole the land from the natives, yet dispite the misdeeds, we must forgive ourselves and ask forgiveness of those our forebearers wronged, including the slaves they brought here from Africa. Nobody should be throwing stones at this point." (sic)
In your rebuttal, you say "your claiming that my calling you a fool is stooping to my level and wishing harm to you sounds like you believe you're ENTITLED to pretend (sic)..."
In other words, it's okay for this man to disregard the laws of this land (not what I think the laws are), wherever he comes from, and if I don't like it, "may the same thing happen to me very soon". Nice! If you had taken the time to actually read what I said, it's no secret that I am an immigrant, sort of... I, like these DACA kids, were brought here without my consent. The difference is, when I was in my early twenties, I applied for naturalization. I have dual citizenship. So my comment was directed at why this guy didn't apply for naturalization when he became an "adult"? He thinks he is entitled because he wants a "green card" using his marriage as the reason. Not that he wants to become an American citizen on his own. A

Mary B
Mary B9 months ago

Christina S, You immigrated from somewhere. That is what the issue is. So if you're claiming the the issue is entitlement, and trying to absolve yourself from being above the term immigrant, then how did you and your ancestors get here ? The fact that Mr Villada was from Mexico makes no difference. You're looking at this specific case and arguing about the rules, and I'm calling you on it. Immigrants are immigrants no matter where they come from. Your claiming that my calling you a fool is stooping to my level and wishing harm to you sounds like you believe you're ENTITLED to pretend you're better than immigrants. So yes, YOU need to stop bashing immigrants. Those who made the rules were also immigrants from some where. And THAT was the point of my post. I have no problem with people playing the LAW card when it's about protecting people from harming others, but what you're doing my dear is drinking the right wing coolade and thinking it makes you sound smart. If you think this law is inflicting harm, then why are you supporting it ?

RK R9 months ago

Victim of the aggregate violations of rampant, illegal border crossings caught in the cross hair of justified enforcement. This case will grind through Don't Access California Again.

Leo Custer
Leo C9 months ago

thank you for posting!

Past Member 9 months ago


Christina S
Past Member 9 months ago

Not that I usually re comment but Mary B my dear, it is you who are a misled "fool". I will not stoop to your level and wish you harm; very caring, by the way. But I will say: To begin with, my ancestors did not take a darn thing from the Native Americans because neither I, nor them, were born in America. And we didn't come over on the May Flower, et al and screw the natives for some food & medicine. Furthermore, I am not of British or English descent: therefore, my ancestors did not make deals with African leaders to buy their people. Nor did my ancestors buy slaves from white men who sold them. My country pretty much kept their slaves in house back in the 19th - 20th century. And thank goodness they wised up to that abhorrent practice long ago. So save that speech for someone else. This guy has been in the US since a child but only now is looking for a "green card". Why didn't he seek citizenship on his 18th bday? He is not being punished for leaving for his green card, but because he left for his grandfather's death, and that is what has caused his denial. The INS long ago stopped automatic "spousal visas" because too many people got married for them. If he really wanted to become a citizen, he would have applied for naturalization, taken the test and gotten sworn in. He thinks he is "entitled". That's his problem. If he wants things to go his way, he needs to follow the rules and the laws of this land!