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Immigration Officials Drop Gay Deportation Case

Immigration Officials Drop Gay Deportation Case


In another positive signal for married bi-national same-sex couples, immigration authorities have chosen to drop a case against a Venezuelan man in a same-sex marriage with his American-born partner who faced deportation for no other reason than the government does not recognize the couple’s marriage.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) decision means that Alex Benshimol and Douglas Gentry will not be split up. Benshimol was born in Venezuela and has been in a relationship with Gentry for six years. The couple married in July of 2010 but, because of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage, Benshimol cannot be granted a marriage-based green card.

In July of this year we reported that San Francisco Immigration Judge Marilyn Teeter had halted proceedings against Benshimol, citing the questionable constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA,whereby she laid out two specific courses of action. Teeter firstly gave immigration officials 60 days to drop proceedings against Benshimol. If the authorities chose not to do so, Teeter said she would return to the case in September 2013, thereby enjoining that Benshimol would be protected from deportation until that time.

However, in a move the ICE calls “consistent with the agency’s focus on deporting foreigners convicted of crimes,” the ICE has responded with a motion to close the deportation proceedings. This follows the ICE in early July dropping a deportation case against another Venezuelan man who faced being parted from his same-sex spouse.

Immigration groups have praised the administration for this action, but point out that more needs to be done to lift DOMA’s burden on married same-sex binational couples.

From SFWeekly:

“It’s great news that the administration is proactively dropping deportation proceedings,” says Steve Ralls, spokeman for Immigration Equality. But Ralls believes that the government still has a long way to go in bringing legal protection to LGBT married couples.

He explains that the feds have a pattern of waiting until the last minute before providing relief. “Essentially, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is saying that you must be faced with the worst case scenario to qualify for relief,” says Ralls. “The administration should be working to help families not face that scenario in the first place. We wish it didn’t have to come to removal.”

In another important case, a Colorado immigration judge on Thursday of last week  rescheduled deportation proceedings against a Mexican national who is legally married to her American-born same-sex partner but is ineligible for a marriage-based green card solely because of the Defense of Marriage Act.

This follows the Obama administration’s announcement that the government will be changing immigration policies so as to pursue only high priority deportation cases which, when teamed with ongoing court cases that cast doubt on the constitutionality of DOMA, mean there is a greater scope for offering relief to married bi-national same-sex couples. Read more on that here.

Related Reading:

How does DOMA Hurt Same-Sex Couples?

Bankruptcy Court: Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional

CREW Files Ethics Complaint Against Boehner Regarding DOMA Defense

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Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to -Marlith-.

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10:04AM PDT on Aug 26, 2011

a definite positive step. Still, DOMA needs to go completely.

5:45AM PDT on Aug 25, 2011

Glad to finally hear that some common sense is prevailing concerning these deportation cases involving bi-national same sex couples.

8:37PM PDT on Aug 24, 2011

OMG! The Immigration and Nationalization Service did something sensible! What is this world coming to?

(Sarcasm, in case you didn't get it)

6:33PM PDT on Aug 24, 2011

Glad the case was dropped.

2:31PM PDT on Aug 24, 2011

Thanks for the article.

2:10PM PDT on Aug 24, 2011

This was good news for a change.

2:01PM PDT on Aug 24, 2011

Phyllis C....
I'm so sorry for the ignorance and bigotry of this country. Everyone deserves the right to dignity and equality. The fact that some don't is a black spot on the US. I'm a straight nobody, but I have gone to rallies in my city and stood hand in hand, arm in arm with my fellow citizens....some gay, and some not. What we all had in common was the desire for ALL the citizens of this state and this country to be equal....nothing more, nothing less...

1:58PM PDT on Aug 24, 2011

If certain message do not comply with what you want to hear that's ok ... simply do not read them but never ever impose your beliefs on to those who want to discuss and hear about certain things. Just do not read/open the messages you know will not agree with you.

@to all.
Yes, something good happened ... finally. Hope it will be more and more.

1:54PM PDT on Aug 24, 2011

Much love to you Zoe! I'm excited to see judges questioning the legality of DOMA.

1:38PM PDT on Aug 24, 2011

We Lesbian and Gay legal citizens are the only people still subjected to blatant abuse and discrimination perpetrated by ignorant and arrogant politicians who covet their jobs more than the Bill of Rights and Constitution. I consider them traiters and mortal enemies of the people.In earlier times they would be dragged in the street and hung. But Lesbians and Gays are apparently too civilized to stoop to their level. I for one, grow very tired of fighting for rights I am already guaranteed by being a natural born citizen.No taxation without representation you idiots. But you don't mind taking our Gay money do you???? One day DOMA will be looked at the same as the Salem witch hunts. People shaking their heads in disbelief we could be so ignorant and oppressive. And President Obama, what would Martin Luthor King say about this on the day of his memorial dedication? The civil rights he fought for were inclusive of all.

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