The Obama administration has dropped its deportation case against Alex Benshimol, a 47-year-old Venezuelan man who is married to an American citizen, Doug Gentry.
Though Benshimol and Gentry were legally married in Massachusetts in 2008, the Defense of Marriage Act prevents Gentry from sponsoring Benshimol for a green card. The federal government launched a deportation case against Benshimol after he overstayed his visa.
"The constant fear of exile or separation is over, and for that we're very grateful," the couple said in a statement.
Immigration judge Marilyn Teeter ruled in July that Immigration and Customs Enforcement had 60 days to pursue the deportation or drop it. The judge gave Benshimol a two-year stay on his deportation even if immigration officials decided they wanted to pursue the case, citing a June memo from immigration chief John Morton that said the agency should use "prosecutorial discretion" to focus on deporting criminals.
Immigration officials decided Friday to drop the case.
This is the second time the American government has used discretion to avoid separating a same-sex married couple, according to Benshimol's lawyer, Lavi Soloway. The first was in June. Soloway said in a statement that he's "cautiously optimistic" about the news that the government will review all 300,000 deportation cases to stop prosecutions against low-priority illegal immigrants. The agency said it will try not to separate families, including gay and transgender families.