Gay couple’s deportation case dropped

A San Francisco immigration judge has dropped the deportation case against a married gay man.

The decision comes after new federal guidelines appear to relax enforcement on low-priority deportation cases, including taking into account whether the person has a spouse who is a U.S. citizen. Although the government hasn’t formally specified whether the guidelines apply to same-sex couples, Washington, D.C.’s Metro Weekly has quoted senior administration officials as saying that they do.

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.

“They’re relieved,” Soloway said. “For them, the struggle’s certainly not over, but the nightmare’s over. They don’t have to wake up every morning worrying that Alex is going to be deported.”

Soloway said the couple has been together five years, and Benshimol has two adult stepsons who live nearby.

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman said in a statement that the decision was consistent with ICE’s “current priorities focusing on convicted criminal aliens and those who pose a threat to public safety” and a desire to use court resources “wisely.”

aburack@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

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