Melanie Nathan Calls for Moratorium as US Citizen’s Brazilian

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screamerBOSTON — Associated Press reports today that a gay Brazilian man has been denied asylum by the Obama administration and won’t be reunited with his Massachusetts husband in the U.S. It is reported that Tim Coco, the US citizen binational spouse said that  Attorney General Eric Holder did not act on a Friday deadline in the case of Genesio “Junior” Oliveira, effectively denying the 30-year-old Brazilian man’s request for asylum in the U.S. on humanitarian grounds.

This is not the first time a gay man from Brazil has been denied an immigration path through marriage to theUSA.  The other case involving a Brazilian is that of the husband of US citizen Gordon Stewart, as Pfizer employee who is now living in exile in the United Kingdom so he and his spouse can live their marital relationship.

 In June 2009, Gordo, together with Shirley Tan provided oral testimony before Senator Leahy and other Senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee in the hope that the Uniting American Families Act would engage congress enough to do something about the inequities in our immigration law.

 Coco said, “We needed the Attorney General to make a decision on whether Junior could come home,” said Coco, 48, of Haverhill. “He didn’t take this request seriously.”  It seems as if the Justice department has yet to respond to questions about this case.

 In 2002, Oliveira had sought asylum in the U.S. apparently basing his case on a rape as a teenager in Brazil.  But an immigration judge denied his request.  The Associated Press noted that it does not typically name rape victims, but Oliveira speaks openly about his case and is allowing his name to be used.

 Oliveira  and Coco married in Massachusetts in 2005 and bought a house together. However unlike other married couples in the US, gay marriages have no bearing on the immigration law that overtly discriminates against same-sex spouses.  The undeniable fact is that gays and lesbians are allowed  to marry in the US in under the law of certain States. Yet because of the Defense of Marriage Act they are precluded from federal rights which includes that provided by the Immigration and Naturalization Act.

 In March,Sen. John Kerry asked Attorney General Eric Holder to grant Oliveira asylum on humanitarian grounds.  Kerry spokeswoman Brigid O’Rourke said Monday that the senator will continue to work toward a solution that would reunite the couple for good. The fact is that if Tim and Junior were a heterosexual married couple, they would never have suffered through more than two years of separation,” said O’Rourke.

 The Uniting American Families needs it’s time now. While there are thousands of unpublicized stories in the shadows right now, many more are being exposed to Congress and yet Senators such as Kerry who favor the passage of UAFA are still failing in their leadership on the issues.  What is the point of advocating for individuals when you have the power of the legislation in your hands?

 Coco said he thought there was “no way” the Obama Administration would deny Oliveira’s asylum request after Kerry made his plea to Holder.  “We are profoundly sad,” said Coco. “This is more than any married should have to face.”

 AP reports, the case comes as Obama tries to smooth a rocky relationship with gay activists, who want him to end the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays, which he has pledged to do but hasn’t given a timeline. Tens of thousands of gay rights supporters marched in Washington earlier this month, demanding Obama keep his promise to end the policy.

 Coco said he has spent about $250,000 in legal bills and hasn’t seen Oliveira since January, though the two video chat online every night. A heterosexual sponsorship of a spouse costs $750-$1500 if you use an attorney.

 Oliveira was denied a visa to return to Massachusetts last year for the funeral of Coco’s mother. Gordon Stewart’s husband has been denied the right to visit his spouse’s sister who has cancer.  Gordon gave up a robust career wityh Pfizer. Although the company transferred him to the UK, he is unable to rise in the ranks as he may have done had he been able to continue his career in the USA headquarters.

 Coco said the couple plans to launch a legal challenge against the federal Defense of Marriage Act as a violation of immigration laws.

 That may be a worthy attempt but with my experience in this issue I believe that energy should be put into legislation – we should be calling all our Representatives in Congress and demanding the change we were promised.  Challenging this in the Courts will still yield one major shield for those who are not allowed to marry in their respective States.  Until marriage is uniform, UAFA ascribes the right to Permanent Partners, as the relationship that seeks validity to circumvent DOMA.  

  In the meantime, pending legislation, which must happen and soon,  I call on Senators Feinstein, Kerry, Gillibrand, Schumer, Frank to pave the way for binationals by enacting / introducing/Class Private Bill whatever it takes -a moratorium on all deportations of married LGBT spouses;  by providing a special Visa Program with status for married LGBT couples (perhaps one that can sunset pending a solution or legislation– similar to the R1 (religious workers visa program) for married lesbians and gay spouses.

 When I was in DC during August I spoke with congressional staffers and received an “interested” response to this idea. 

 The reason for this is based less on the privilege granted to ‘a would be immigrant,’ but rather based on the RIGHT – the CIVIL RIGHT of the American Spouse…. Never since the days pre-civil rights movement has there been such a flagrant apartheid-esque practice perpetuated upon US citizens.  We do not have a right that other Americans have.

 O’Rourke said Kerry supports the couple’s legal challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, which limits how state, local and federal bodies can recognize partnerships and determine benefits. He also called for a law to extend benefits to domestic partners. This I personally find outrages. Why does Senator Kerry not get behind the REPEAL of DOMA.  Congressman Nadler has had the courage to introduce it in the form of the Respect of Marriage Act.  Why is he talking Domestic Partnership.  Another incremental crumb? I don’t want to hear that word…Domestic Partnership.

 This month, Obama called on Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. Well do it. This case is one in thousands. We need our remedy now. I am not available for a life on hold. Neither is Mr. Coco and others whose names remain private at this juncture.

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