Obama Administration’s Inaction Keeps Married Gay Couple Separated

Despite a plea from Senator John Kerry, Attorney General Eric Holder has refused to act in the asylum case of Genesio "Junior" Oliveira, who requested asylum in the U.S. in 2002. In
2005, he was married in Massachusetts to his husband Tim Coco, but the
couple have been separated since 2007 when Oliveira was sent back to
Brazil after his asylum requests and appeals were denied.

Oliveira In March, Kerry came to the aid of the couple, who would normally have no problem in this situation. But, because of the Defense of Marriage Act, the U.S. does not recognize immigrants who marry U.S. citizens in a same-sex marriage.

Holder's response in this case has been silence, the AP reports:

"Tim Coco said 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.

"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.'

The Justice Department did not immediately return messages…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.

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.'"

Cases like these are why the Uniting American Families Act,
which was reintroduced in February, is so important. As well, of course,
as the repeal of DOMA which prevents the federal government from
recognizing anything other than a heterosexual marriage.

The UAFA has since been added to a larger comprehensive immigration reform bill. Senator Gillibrand spoke about it briefly in answer to a question at her forum over the weekend, and stressed that the immigration reform legislation must be introduced and passed before the Spring.


  1. InExile says

    What will it take for this administration to take action on ending this discriminatory policy? How many more gay couples will need to be separated or forced to live in exile in foreign country’s just to stay together?

    Living in exile for over 3 years now, our life we spent years building was destroyed. Imagine being and American citizen and having to move to a place where you do not speak the language so cannot work waiting for the laws to change and spending your life savings. Being separated from all your friends and elderly parents is the worst part.

  2. says

    As much as we need the Department of Homeland Security to order Immigration and Customs Enforcement Trial Attorneys to agree adjournments in the removal proceedings involving same-sex partners/spouses of US citizens to prevent or slow down the process by which these deportations are ordered by Immigration Judges, we need Congress to pass Uniting American Families Act, repeal DOMA, and perhaps most importantly, we need the Senate version of family re-unification immigration legislation to include gay and lesbian couples now. While it seems that most of the political establishment and punditry is (properly) focused on health insurance reform, work begun earlier in 2009 continues in earnest behind the scenes to ready bills that would tackle one of our country’s greatest catastrophes: our broken immigration system.

    The Obama administration via the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security can surely play a role here, but the reality is that we must work hard to achieve our goals through action by Congress. The good news is that diligence and hard work by gay and lesbian binational couples since the introduction of the Permanent Partners Immigration Act in 2000 (now known as the Uniting American Families Act) has achieved a respectable and sustained level of support in both houses. But the hardest work is ahead of us: Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has not included us in the Senate version of the draft legislation because of pressure from, among others, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. California Congressman Mike Honda (D-NY), on the other hand, has not only included us in his parallel legislation in the House but he has actively championed the inclusion of lesbian and gay binational couples in comprehensive immigration reform.

    Across the country we must stand up and make our voices heard. Gilibrand and Schumer in New York have indicated their support, but we must work until we have firm commitments from them and all other allies in the Senate that comprehensive immigration reform, which is expected to be taken up in 2010, will include lesbian and gay families. Write, call and visit your Senator’s local offices now.

    Folks in California should be focused on the recalcitrant Senator Diane Feinstein, who has stated her agreement in principle but has not acted to support UAFA. We need her to be a fierce advocate now.

    I am an immigrant to the United States who has worked on LGBT immigration issues for 16 years. For most of that time I was half of a binational couple and lived with the stress of uncertainty that afflicts tens of thousands of similarly situated gay couples. And from the trenches, I can tell you that we have never been closer to changing this cruel injustice. It is within our grasp if we organize and lobby our Senators and Representatives in the coming weeks and months. Grass roots persistence is key. No organization can do it alone, though Immigration Equality, which I founded, is providing superb leadership in this effort. The largest national gay lobbying organization, HRC, has not made this a top priority. Despite the fact that gay and lesbian partners of US citizens are being deported every day, often forced to return to dangerous circumstances in unsafe countries, the Beltway gay politicos speak of a vague, long-term strategy that (post Hate Crimes) staggers ENDA, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and DOMA over an undefined horizon and almost always ignores the immediate need to stop the deportations and solve the immigration crisis faced by our community. We cannot wait any longer. Families are being torn apart. Gay couples, many now lawfully married and with children, have been devastated by the threat of deportation that hangs like the sword of Damocles over the foreign national parent, and indeed the fate of the entire family. Americans are self-deporting, becoming forced expatriates and living abroad, some in Canada, which has become a country of refuge for binational couples, even where neither is Canadian, because of their progressive and humane immigration policies. Elderly (American) parents who desperately need the care their adult children can provide often find that they have been torn from them by immigration laws, and deprived of precious time together with them late in life.

    The impact on US businesses is far reaching as well, because immigration discrimination invades the workplace, confounds Human Resources professionals who often find that key employees refuse promotions and overseas transfers because of a foreign national partner who is trapped in the United States and cannot travel without being subject to a 10-year bar if he or she departs the country. To say nothing of the other problems faced by foreign partners who cannot work legally, who lack identity documents, who have no bank accounts, social security numbers and who even fall victim to extortion and crime because of their vulnerable status.

    The time to act is now, before the Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday season gets in the way of serious legislative work. Call, write and visit your Representatives, and especially your Senators, even if they have “stated” their support, and demand that our families be included in Comprehensive Immigration Reform, especially in Senator Menendez’s family reunificiation legislation. For more information see:
    http://immigrationequality.org/blog/?p=1337 and http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/03/us/politics/03immig.html

  3. Martin says

    Welcome to our world – my world.

    Lets not forget it was Clinton who signed DOMA not knowing or ignoring what he was doing. And it will probably take years to get this law overturned. Like all the other shit: HIV travel ban, DADT…

    How come that Sen. Feinstein could help the girls from California and Kerry could not?
    Uhhhh… with the girls there were CHILDREN involved.

    I could just vomit to hear the good old Republican phrase: LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD… The American society is the most resilient society in the “West” when it comes to LGBT issues even among Democrats.

    So let’s wait for UAFA, my expectations are low… in the meantime we can move to Europe…

  4. Jake says

    I can’t believe that this is happening in 2009! This is so sad and unfair. Please call your Senators and ask them please to stop this cruel and unfair law. I am embarrassed to be a US Citizen…we pay the same taxes but we are not treated equally under this stupid law? Can’t tell you how made this story made me this morning!!! Please do whatever you can to change this policy!!!

  5. Chris says

    @ Martin, Even though Clinton signed it. These girls still love them in spite of so saying that might get you grief up in here…lol

    Until the laws change these things will happen. In which by the way hetreosexuals cannot marry an foreigner and the forgeinger becomes an American. Not no more they can’t so lets not make this a gay thing.

    Even if we don’t like them the US has laws. We must fight to overturn things such as this for all not just for gays!

  6. Martin says

    @ Chris:…??? You don’t seem to understand. Check Sen. Feinstein and the women from California.

    Any American heterosexual can marry a heterosexual foreigner. The foreign partner may not become an American citizen right away but he/she can come/live in the USA with no restrictions. The issue is not to become an American citizen that is irrelevant.
    And there is a difference between gay and straight on this issue!
    If you don’t understand…

  7. styleboy says

    I don’t think this is just a gay issue…last night on the Channel 7 news here in LA there was a report of the wife of an Iraq veteran is fighting deportation.

  8. says

    From the AP – “In 2002, Oliveira had sought asylum in the U.S. because he said he was raped as a teenager in Brazil. But an immigration judge denied his request, and Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich said in a letter that Oliveira repeatedly remarked at his hearing that he “was never physically harmed” by anyone in Brazil. Coco, however, said Oliveira was referring to street beatings and wasn’t clear during his hearing about the harm he faced because of the rape.”

    Although this story has been carried by the AP, it has been largely ignored by the TV media. They would rather do follow-ups on ‘balloon boy’. I emailed CNN and MSNBC to suggest this as a story idea, but I doubt one email will get their attention.

  9. Rafael S. says

    Hi Tim,

    DOMA, Clinton’s compromise with the far right, continues to haunt us. OBAMA maybe too timid after Clinton’s more ambitious start on gay right. Hang in there.

  10. says

    “Folks in California should be focused on the recalcitrant Senator Diane Feinstein, who has stated her agreement in principle but has not acted to support UAFA. We need her to be a fierce advocate now. ” Lavi, nice to see your astute comments – all true. I have been an avid critic of leadership failure, as you know. To get into the meat of this failure, I have had face to face consultations with senior staffer on this in Sen Feinstein’s office. The Senator is supportive of the result. Her compassion clearly displayed by her introduction of the Private Bill for Shirley Tan. That said there is a problem and thye entire leadership including immigration equality is ignoring it.. the problem with UAFA that needs remedying before it can be supported by Sen. feisntein and others is the lack of a contractual nexus such as marriage. This is not the fruad issue as everyone thinks – although to some extent it speaks to evidence that may thwart fraud. It is the fact that unless tere is a contractual nexus there is no overt legal obligation between the permanent partners, as currently defined for purposes of UAFA.

    This needs to be addressed with the Senator. I know her office is working with Senator leahy on this aspect. But I do not believe it is being managed or supported by external leadership. That is the problem with Senator feinstein’s support. Californians have been begging and submitting their stories. Shirely Tan and he family had a personal meeting with the Senator. But the process has yet to accomodate the Senator’s concerns. This problem may show up in CIR as well, unless dealt with. The gay leadership has accused Feinstein of not “doing anything” for our community especially those out of State, in DC – have dismissed her as too difficult I have been informed of this directly when I asked why this was not being worked on – I was told dont waste your time… well these poeple are quick to forget that Sen Feinstein voted vs. DOMA.

    In truth UAFA is in a sorry state, espcially now with many lost opportunities. I agree that with you that Immigrant binational plight is unconscienably at the bottom of the list. Perhaps the mistake has been that IE usurped HRC domain – who knows – but with that said, I believe all our energy and focus should be on the repeal of DOMA. Many views have changed. EVen Specter and Sestak are using this in their campaign Blurb as a positive – calling DOMA a relic of the past.

Leave A Reply