|In June, Alex and Doug celebrated six years together as a couple|
On July 13 in San Francisco, Doug Gentry and Alex Benshimol, a married California couple who have been together for six years, will face every same-sex binational couple’s worst nightmare: a deportation hearing. As anyone following this issue knows, for years there has been little hope for same-sex binational couples seeking to reside together in the United States. Many binational couples are legally married like Alex and Doug, but they are still treated as legal strangers in the eyes of the federal government. There is only one reason Doug and Alex are facing deportation proceedings at all. That reason is DOMA, a law that the President of the United States himself has determined to be indefensible and unconstitutional.
Doug and Alex are one of the founding couples of the Stop The Deportations-DOMA Project campaign. Doug, a U.S. citizen, filed a marriage-based "green card" petition for Alex in July 2010. It was denied in March in a one page letter citing DOMA as the only reason. The couple re-filed the petition in June, citing changes in the administration position on DOMA that took place in February, and the Attorney General's intervention in a Board of Immigration Appeals case in April involving a gay binational couple facing deportation which was made public on May 5. [Please see note below regarding the filing of marriage-based green card petitions by married same-sex binational couples.]
On July 13 we will ask the Immigration Judge and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement attorney prosecuting the case to put these deportation proceedings on hold pending the outcome of efforts to repeal DOMA or a final definitive ruling on DOMA's constitutionality by the federal courts. No American citizen, straight or gay, should see the love of their life torn away from them by deportation. Our laws provide for a clear path to a green card for married opposite-sex binational couples, including those already in deportation proceedings. Doug and Alex should be treated equally and fairly. They should not be forced to live under this extraordinary stress one minute longer.
[Doug's 26-year-old son, Kenneth Gentry, has written to both Senators Feinstein and Boxer asking them to contact DHS and stop the deportation of his stepfather that is tearing apart his family.]
Doug and Alex have waged a public campaign to focus attention on the impact of DOMA on binational couples facing the imminent, irreversible harm of deportation. Doug and Alex are fighting to be together and save their marriage. They they are also fighting for their family: Doug's two children from a previous marriage consider Alex to be their stepfather and are heartbroken at the idea that he may be deported to his native country, Venezuela. Clearly, there is no option for Doug and his children to move to Venezuela, where life is not only dangerous for LGBT people but where Doug and his children would be unable to obtain any legal status, since Doug's marriage to Alex is not recognized in that country for immigration purposes. DOMA will tear apart this California family unless we stop this deportation.
As part of their campaign, Doug and Alex were featured recently in articles by the Associated Press and Frontiers magazine. Earlier this year, they were the subject of this campaign by Freedom to Marry, the pre-eminent national organization fighting for full marriage equality. Doug and Alex have also shared their story with their local CBS television affiliate, in this very touching report that aired on February 10. The southern California newspaper, the Press-Enterprise, profiled Doug and Alex in this story on February 8.
Alex came into the U.S. 12 years ago from Venezuela and overstayed a tourist visa, an immigration violation that straight binational couples can easily remedy once married; as a gay married couple, Doug and Alex do not have that option. We believe the political will of our elected leaders must be directed at this issue so that DOMA is repealed quickly. All American citizens deserve the right to pursue life and happiness with the liberty and equality guaranteed us all by our Constitution. We need our elected officials to show leadership and resolve on this issue. The Obama administration has the power to protect couples like Doug and Alex so they are not torn apart by deportation. Join us in declaring that the cruel discrimination that has been inflicted on couples like Doug and Alex MUST finally come to an end.
As readers of this site know, for decades, and certainly since DOMA became law, LGBT binational couples have fought discrimination in US immigration law. At best, our foreign partners and spouses have managed to stay in the US with temporary visas related to work or study. But even those lucky few are, like all others, deprived of access to a “green card” on the basis of their relationship with their life partner, no matter how long or how committed that relationship is. Binational couples cannot build a future together and live with tremendous insecurity, even though many are raising U.S.-born children together. Far more often couples are forced to live apart in different countries or they are exiled to one of the more than 20 countries in the world that respect our families. Perhaps the greatest number are those forced to live in the United States in the shadows with constant uncertainty; fear of deportation and ruin hanging over their heads. This destroys marriages, and tears apart our families. It is a humanitarian crisis that must come to an end.
Please join Out4Immigration, Stop the Deportations, GetEQUAL, Marriage Equality USA, and your fellow citizens in urging President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano to take action to recognize Doug and Alex’s marriage and prevent another family from being torn apart!
Sign the petition here. Help us save this marriage and stop the deportation of Alex Benshimol. Fight back against DOMA and protect all lesbian and gay binational families.
|Alex and Doug on their wedding day in July 2010|
NOTE: Stop the Deportations - The DOMA Project warns that filing of marriage-based immigration petitions should not be undertaken without the guidance of an attorney with expertise in LGBT-specific immigration law and DOMA. In most cases, filing such petitions can put the foreign national spouse in danger of deportation or complicate eligibility for a non-immigrant visa. Please contact us here. if you have any questions about this issue.