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Officials Agree to Close Deportation Case Involving Gay Binational Couple

Officials Agree to Close Deportation Case Involving Gay Binational Couple

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In the latest victory for binational gay couples in the immigration system, officials in Hartford, Conn. moved earlier this week to drop deportation proceedings against Michael Thomas, a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago who married his American spouse, John Brandoli, in Massachusetts last year, according to Immigration Equality.

Immigration Equality spokesman Steve Ralls said Friday that his organization had brought the case to the attention of Department of Homeland Security executive secretary Philip McNamara, who was recently appointed to the role of LGBT liaison in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) working group tasked with reviewing the nation's 300,000 pending deportation cases. (Thomas and Brandoli have a private immigration attorney, while Immigration Equality has consulted on the case in addition to providing media and legislative outreach.)

"We certainly believe that [McNamara] and Senator [John] Kerry played a significant role in ensuring that the case was closed," Ralls said. In April, the Massachusetts senator had sent a letter on behalf of the couple to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

An immigration judge still has to approve the motion, though that decision is expected to be a formality following the government's agreement to close the proceedings.

The closure of Thomas's case is the second known positive result for a gay binational couple in a removal situation since the ICE deportation working group began its review on November 17, according to Immigration Equality.

On November 30, an immigration judge granted a motion, agreed to by government attorneys, to close the deportation case of Monica Alcota, an Argentine national who lives in Queens, N.Y. with her American wife, Cristina Ojeda. Alcota is represented by immigration attorney Lavi Soloway of Stop the Deportations.

In written guidance issued last month to ICE attorneys in the field, officials did not specifically mention LGBT families in criteria for cases that could receive "prosecutorial discretion" and thus be administratively closed. DHS officials have stressed that the guidance language issued nevertheless was crafted to be inclusive of gay couples, who are barred from equal immigration sponsorship privileges under the Defense of Marriage Act.

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