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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 19, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 47
Binational couple to reunite
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Binational couple to reunite

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

In a strange but lucky turn of events, a Filipino man who was denied permission multiple times to remain in the U.S. with his American husband has been granted a tourist visa to reenter the country.

Roi Whaley, a 46-year-old casino worker in Gulfport, Mississippi, who has advanced lung cancer, has been forced to live apart from his husband, Aurelio Tolentino, for more than three years. Tolentino had worked legally as a registered nurse in the U.S. but was denied a green card because of his HIV-positive status.

The ban on HIV-positive green card applicants has since been lifted.

Since 2007, Tolentino has lived in Vancouver, Canada, with his mother and still faces possible deportation to the Philippines.

'He's going to die there,' Whaley told The Advocate in September of such prospects. 'He's not going to have a job, he's not going to have access to the medication he needs to live, he's probably going to be shunned by everyone in his family.'

The case caught the attention of Immigration Equality, a LGBT immigration rights group that has been attempting to reunite the couple.

Immigration Equality advised Tolentino to first apply for a tourist visa - which would most likely be denied - followed by a request to the Department of Homeland Security for 'humanitarian parole,' whereby he would be allowed back into the country on a temporary basis to take care of Whaley, who is also HIV-positive and cannot undergo chemotherapy because of his low T-cell count. As a result, Whaley faces a grim prognosis.

Out of the blue, surprisingly, Tolentino's application for a multiple entry tourist visa was approved last week. Upon hearing the good news, Whaley says he intends to travel to Canada next month and return to the U.S. with his husband.

'When it happened, I wasn't really sure how to take it,' said Whaley, who married Tolentino in Canada earlier this year. 'It wasn't supposed to happen. There was less than a 1% chance that they would do it.'

Whaley has been an active advocate for immigration reform, recently telling his story to congressional staff in meetings at the offices of Mississippi senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, both Republicans.

The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), a bill that would allow Gays and Lesbians the opportunity to sponsor a noncitizen partner for residency, is highly unlikely to pass this year. According to Immigration Equality, UAFA lost 16 of its 135 cosponsors in the House and three of 25 cosponsors in the Senate due to the recent election results.

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