Santiago and Pablo Santiago went to Venezuela in 1991 to seek alternative medical attention for HIV/AIDS because there were no suitable medications available at the time. There, he met Pablo and began to fall in love. Santiago returned to the U.S. but corresponded faithfully with Pablo, inviting him to spend Christmas in Puerto Rico with his family. Fearing for his health, Santiago asked Pablo to come to New York to share with him what might be his last year of life and Pablo agreed. Pablo arrived with a six-month visa, which he was able to renew only once. At the end of a year, Santiago, still very much alive and in love, asked him, “Please stay?” and Pablo stayed. From that time on, he was undocumented and remained so for 20 years, staying in the shadows, never traveling, never going to visit his family, not being there when his father died. Pablo loved and cared for Santiago, whose medical condition was quite serious. His love inspired Santiago to fight to live. Santiago says, “He’s been taking care of me all of these years. If it weren’t for Pablo I certainly wouldn’t be alive. He’s been there as my support. When I developed cancer, he went with me every day to my radiation therapy, to my chemo. He’s been my lifeline, and that’s a full-time job. He’s given up his life to be with me.” With Santiago retired from his job as a school psychologist and receiving Social Security benefits, the couple was able to support themselves. Even with his undocumented status, Pablo worked odd jobs to bring in extra money: He has been a house painter, a freelance writer for a Spanish newspaper, a caterer, a coat checker, and a playwright. With the encouragement of Santiago, he began studying for advanced degrees at the age of 44. He earned a bachelor’s degree at York College, a master’s degree from the City College of New York, and is in his fourth year of a doctoral program at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Santiago and Pablo have overcome many obstacles to stay in each other’s arms. “We don’t see each other living without the other,” says Santiago. “We’re happy together. Pablo is a very quiet man. He’s got all the best qualities in the world.” Pablo says, “Santiago is always smiling. He always dances around the house, hearing music. He is a happy spirit. He is a great cook. I can’t eat without him.” “I come from a society that is homophobic in essence,” says Pablo. “In my time in Venezuela, I knew that I was gay but I was afraid to say it in public, to say to my family or my friends. It was a very, very hard process. I never thought that I would say I’m married with another guy. To have a ring? No, it’s not just a ring. It has all the meaning that is behind it—me, a person, a human being. I have an identity.” In 2011, the couple turned to Immigration Equality for help in gaining legal status for Pablo. They were married in Connecticut, and Pablo applied for a green card, but it was denied. Citing Pablo’s age, his status as Santiago’s main caregiver, and his graduate studies, they requested deferred action. One of five plaintiff couples working with Immigration Equality, they filed suit against the Federal Government for the right to sponsor a spouse for a green card. In 2013, when the Defense of Marriage Act fell, life changed rapidly for Santiago and Pablo. With his newly acquired Permanent Resident Status, Pablo is now teaching at Brooklyn College and working as a tutor at City College. The couple can travel together now, and Pablo is scheduled to visit Venezuela in July 2014 to see his family for the first time in 22 years. Sadly, his mother passed away in 2013.