Immigration Judge Delays Deportation for Alex Benshimol, S.F. Gay Man Married to American

Categories: Immigration, LGBT
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Alex Benshimol, left, can stay in the country with his husband Alex Gentry.
In another victory for same-sex couples, a San Francisco immigration judge ignored the Defense of Marriage Act today when she delayed the deportation proceedings against a gay Venezuelan man who is married to an American citizen.

Immigration Judge Marilyn Teeter's decision gives the California couple, Alex Benshimol and Doug Gentry, until September 2013 for their next court date -- buying them two years.

The couple's court date today was prefaced by a rally outside the courthouse drawing speeches by former Supervisor Bevan Dufty and City Assessor Phil Ting, both of whom are running for mayor, as well as  Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who is running for San Francisco sheriff.

Teeter gave Immigration and Customs Enforcement 60 days to decide whether to drop deportation proceedings against Benshimol after his attorney's cited a memo issued last month from ICE Director John Morton. The memo tells the agency to use discretion when dealing with deportation proceedings against family members of American citizens. ICE dropped the deportation case against another Venezuelan man who is married to an American just last week in Newark, New Jersey.

If ICE decides to go forward with its deportation case against Benshimol, Teeter will see the case again in September 2013. Benshimol is represented by Lavi Soloway, an immigration attorney behind the Stop the Deportations campaign.

Benshimol came to the United States 12 years ago on a tourist visa. He remained in the U.S. even after his paperwork expired, making him illegal. Straight married couples can override that situation by petitioning for a marriage visa, but the Defense of Marriage Act, which only recognizes straight marriages, prevents gay couples from applying for the same petition.

However, DOMA has been attacked by numerous facets of the justice system this year. The U.S. Attorney General's Office said it would no longer defend DOMA in court, and issued a legal brief this month saying the law was motivated by "animus" for gay couples.

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