A San Francisco judge has closed a deportation case against a member of a same-sex couple from southern California.
Venezuelan citizen Alex Benshimol overstayed his visa in 2009, though he'd married Doug Gentry, a US citizen, in 2005. Under the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government does not recognize same-sex unions.
The judge’s decision, at the request of federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, follows a policy shift by the Obama Administration to focus on deporting criminals rather than undocumented immigrants who pose no public safety risk and have family relationships in the U.S. Administration officials said same-sex couples are included in the definition of family.
Benshimol's attorney Lavi Soloway said the new policy is giving hope to tens of thousands of binational same-sex couples.
“This helps us tremendously,” said Soloway. “We have a number of cases in the pipeline, really desperate crisis situations where deportations would tear families apart and destroy marriages.”
One San Francisco gay couple hopes the new federal policy will bode well for their case. The visa for Australian citizen Anthony John Makk expires this week. Makk is husband and primary caretaker to Bradford Wells who has AIDS. Wells said the day he married Makk was the happiest of his life.
“Without him, I just don't know what I'd do, said Wells. “I just can't see going on without him here, I don't know how I'd manage.”
Immigration officials denied Wells’ petition for a spousal visa for Makk last month, citing the Defense of Marriage Act. Wells is appealing the decision.
“I know he's not under an order of deportation right now, said Wells. “But every time a helicopter goes overhead, I cringe.”
Makk’s visa expires Thursday.