Gay Deportation Case Dropped

Good news for DOMA opposition

There’s good news for Alex Benshimol and Douglas Gentry, a married, gay, binational couple in Cathedral City, Calif. The U.S. government (specifically Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has agreed to close their pending deportation case. It’s the first same-sex deportation case to close following the June 17 prosecutorial discretion guidelines issued by ICE Director John Morton. And it could mean good news for others facing a similar fate.

After appearing before San Francisco Immigration Judge Marilyn Teeter for their deportation hearing in July, Judge 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 (he’s the same attorney who handled the case in Philly between an American and Indonesian couple).

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, the judge received and granted the government’s Motion to Administratively Close deportation proceedings against Benshimol.

And then earlier this month, 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,” says 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.”

Married heterosexual couples seldom face the same fate – an issue that is becoming important in the fight to legalize same-sex marriage.

“Today, we celebrate with Doug and Alex, and breathe a quick sigh of relief that their relationship and their future together has been spared,” says 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. The couple was surrounded by friends, family, advocates, and supporters who came together in protest against a DOMA deportation that would destroy their marriage. 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.

“Another DOMA deportation has been stopped, following a year-long campaign by ‘Stop the Deportations – The DOMA Project,’” says 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.”