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San Francisco immigration judge drops deportation case against married gay man

Tuesday, August 23, 2011
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An immigration judge in San Francisco has dropped the deportation case against a married gay man following the Obama Administration’s announcement last week of policy changes that would relax enforcement of “low threat” cases.

Alex Benshimol, left, and Doug Gentry


Alex Benshimol, 47, had been facing deportation back to his native Venezuela after overstaying a visitor visa. He and his partner, Doug Gentry, 53, married in Connecticut in 2010.

The couple, from Cathedral City, hopes to move to San Francisco, where Benshimol has lived for about a year while trying to start a pet-grooming business.

The couple was informed of the judge’s Aug. 11 ruling over the weekend, according to Benshimol’s attorney Lavi Soloway.

The federal government said its policy changes are intended to put a greater focus on deporting criminals and less emphasis on removing illegal immigrants who are otherwise law-abiding and have family ties in the United States.

A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the criteria is inclusive of LGBT families and same-sex couples.

“The administration has demonstrated it can prevent a married same-sex couple from being torn apart by a ‘DOMA deportation,’” said Soloway, referring to the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that bars federal benefits for same-sex couples.

Another binational gay couple — Australian national Anthony Makk and his San Franciscan spouse, Bradford Wells, were also denied a marriage visa on the grounds of DOMA.

They have appealed the decision and are waiting on a ruling. Wells is suffering from AIDS and his husband is his primary caregiver. The two were legally married in Massachusetts seven years ago and have lived together for 19 years.

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