by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
On August 22, the government publicly announced it had dropped the deportation proceedings that threatened to tear apart Alex Benshimol and Douglas Gentry - a married, Gay, binational couple in California - marking the second time in which Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has agreed to close a deportation case involving a married, same-sex couple.
The victory for Benshimol and Gentry of Cathedral City, the first same-sex deportation case to close following the prosecutorial discretion guidelines issued June 17 by ICE director John Morton - ends their personal nightmare and signifies a hopeful future for thousands of other same-sex binational couples facing deportation.
After appearing before San Francisco Immigration Judge Marilyn Teeter for their deportation hearing on July 13, Teeter instructed the government to respond within 60 days to a lengthy and detailed request for administrative closure from the couple's attorney, Lavi Soloway.
Teeter scheduled the next hearing for September 2013, postponing deportation proceedings for more than two years in the event that the government did not agree to close the case.
On August 11, however, Teeter received and granted the government's motion to administratively close deportation proceedings against Benshimol.
On August 18, Janet Napolitano, secretary of homeland security, announced a case-by-case review of all current and future deportation cases - another milestone in the fight to repeal DOMA.
'We are cautiously optimistic after the announcement this week by Secretary Napolitano that all 300,000 pending deportation cases will be reviewed for possible closure, including those impacting LGBT families,' said Soloway. 'However, we do not yet know the mechanics of that process, nor how long it will take for the government working group to carry out its mission. In the meantime, we must continue to fight for each couple and for an end to DOMA deportations across the board.'
'Today we celebrate with Doug and Alex, and breathe a quick sigh of relief that their relationship and their future together has been spared,' said Robin McGehee, director of GetEQUAL. 'But we have so far yet to go in order to preserve the relationships of tens of thousands of same-sex, binational couples living in the U.S. and exiled abroad who continue to wait on a permanent and real solution to our country's broken immigration system.'
On July 13, Venezuelan citizen Benshimol and U.S. citizen Gentry stood hand-in-hand outside the federal building on Montgomery Street in San Francisco. Friends, family, advocates, and supporters who came together in protest against a DOMA deportation that would destroy their marriage surrounded the couple. The chanting crowd - representing more than 17,000 petition signers from across the country - urged the Obama administration to take immediate action to ensure that married binational same-sex couples enjoy full equality and access to all the rights and privileges afforded to opposite-sex binational couples under this country's immigration laws. The rally and petition supporting the couple were organized through the combined efforts of Stop the Deportations, GetEQUAL, Marriage Equality USA, and Out4Immigration. Supportive organizations included Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), Asian Pacific Islander Equality, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, Asian Law Caucus, Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), Chinese for Affirmative Action, Equality California, Immigration Equality, Love Honor Cherish, National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), and San Francisco Immigrant Legal and Education Network (SFILEN).
'Another DOMA deportation has been stopped, following a year-long campaign by Stop the Deportations - The DOMA Project,' said Soloway. 'While we have been successful at preventing DOMA from destroying marriages, one victory at a time, we still call on the Obama administration to institute a uniform policy in the form of a moratorium on all DOMA deportations that will make these case-by-case determinations unnecessary.'
Stop the Deportations - A DOMA Project, a campaign co-founded by attorney Lavi Soloway in July 2010 along with his law partner, Noemi Masliah, has contributed to the trend of recent victories. For nearly two decades, Soloway has been the most prominent attorney and advocate on LGBT immigration law and policy in the United States. He has worked exclusively in this field since co-founding the non-profit organization Immigration Equality in 1993. Find more information at www.stopthedeportations.com.
Share on Facebook
Share on Delicious
Share on StumbleUpon!