News in Brief: U.S. drops deportation case against California couple
compiled by Cynthia Laird
The federal government has dropped deportation proceedings against a binational, same-sex married couple who live in California.
Alex Benshimol, 47, who's from Venezuela, and Doug Gentry, 53, a U.S. citizen, have been fighting to stay together. Benshimol came to the U.S. in the late 1990s and overstayed his visa when it expired in 2009. The men have been together for six years and were legally married in Connecticut in July 2010.
On July 13 at a hearing in San Francisco, Lavi Soloway, the couple's attorney, requested that the government agree to "administrative closure" of the case.
Federal immigration Judge Marilyn Teeter ruled that day that Benshimol be permitted to remain in the country despite the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits U.S. recognition of same-sex marriages. Teeter gave the government 60 days to decide whether to drop deportation proceedings against Benshimol.
On June 17, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton issued a memorandum to agency officials specifying the guidelines for prosecutorial discretion in cases that aren't enforcement priorities.
In late July, ICE notified Teeter it had agreed to close the case. The judge received the government's motion August 11 and ruled on the motion, immediately ordering the proceedings administratively closed, according to Stop the Deportations – The DOMA Project, which Soloway founded.
Soloway received a notice of the decision Saturday, August 20, the group said in a statement.
"Consistent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's current priorities focusing on convicted criminal aliens and those who pose a threat to public safety, coupled with the desire to use limited docket space wisely, the agency moved to administratively close this case and the immigration court granted the motion," Virginia Kice, ICE western regional communications director, said in a statement to the Bay Area Reporter.
Teeter had planned to revisit the case in September 2013 if the government didn't drop proceedings.
"As happy as Alex is, he's still uncertain. We will still have to fight for full equality because DOMA prevents me from petitioning for his green card. But the constant fear of exile or separation is over, and for that we're very grateful," stated Gentry.
Bayview hosts art, food fest
The Arts and East Festival takes place today (Thursday, August 25) from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at 5800 Third Street in San Francisco's Bayview neighborhood.
People are invited to sample free food from Brown Sugar Kitchen and Limon Rotisserie, a month ahead of their openings, plus fresh foods from the new Fresh and Easy grocery that opened this week. Local art from ArtSpan will be on exhibit, ahead of its September citywide open house of hundreds of San Francisco artists.
Fashion show to benefit charity
The San Francisco Bay Area Fashion Network will host The Collection on Saturday, August 27 at British Motor Car, 901 Van Ness Avenue.
Three designers will present shows: Daniel Sudar at 4 p.m., Hector Mauial of Acta Verba at 6, and Joseph Domingo at 8. The event will benefit Dress for Success, a nonprofit that helps disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support, and career development tools to help women thrive in life.
Johnny Moallempour of MJM Interior Design, who was featured in the B.A.R.'s Home and Garden section last week, decorated the event's VIP lounge, along with David Mast from Mast Designs.
Tickets for The Collection are $25 per show general seating; $60 per show for VIP seating, or an all-day pass for $150. For tickets and more information, visit www.sfbafn.com.
Marin launch party for gay film
A meet-up style launch party for the forthcoming film, Gay U.S.A. the Movie will take place Wednesday, August 31 at 6 p.m. at Jason's 300 Drake's Landing in Greenbrae. This mixer, with a no-host bar, is a benefit to raise funds to complete the film, which is being produced by Kristina Lapinski. There is no charge to attend, but donations will be accepted.
Hosting the meet and greet will be Melanie Nathan, formerly a blogger at Lez Get Real and now publisher of Gay U.S.A. blog (www.gayusathemovie.com), Rachel Wahba, and Jan Foster. Lapinski, a documentary filmmaker, will show a trailer from the movie, which is hoped to be completed by next summer.
For more information, visit the abovementioned website.
Seth Hemmelgarn contributed to this report.