Tim Coco (US) and Genesio “Junior” Oliveira (Brazil)

Posted on February 24, 2010. Filed under: Stories, Stories - from other sites |

Genesio Oliveira, Gay Brazilian Married To Massachusetts Man, Is Denied Asylum
BOSTON — A gay Brazilian man has been denied asylum by the Obama administration and won’t be reunited with his Massachusetts husband in the U.S., the husband said Monday.
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.

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.
The Associated Press does not typically name rape victims, but Oliveira speaks openly about his case and allows his name to be used.

Oliveira returned to Brazil in 2007 after losing an appeal. Before he left, he and Coco married in Massachusetts in 2005 and bought a house together.

According to federal immigration law, immigrants also can apply for residency if they marry U.S. citizens. But the federal government does not recognize gay marriages under the Defense of Marriage Act, and Oliveira’s request to remain in the United States based on his relationship with Coco was denied this year.

In March, Sen. John Kerry asked Attorney General Eric Holder to grant Oliveira asylum on humanitarian grounds.

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.”
The case comes as Obama tries to smooth a rocky relationship with gay activists, who want him to end the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays, which he has pledged to do but hasn’t given a timeline. Tens of thousands of gay rights supporters marched in Washington earlier this month, demanding Obama keep his promise to end the policy.

Coco said he has spent about $250,000 in legal bills and hasn’t seen Oliveira since January, though the two video chat online every night.

Oliveira was denied a visa to return to Massachusetts last year for the funeral of Coco’s mother.

Oliveira now lives with his mother, helping her run a boarding house for students.
Coco said the couple plans to launch a legal challenge against the federal Defense of Marriage Act as a violation of immigration laws.

“This is our last shot, if nothing else works,” said Coco. “But we think we can pull this off with the right legal counsel.”

O’Rourke said Kerry supports the couple’s legal challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, which limits how state, local and federal bodies can recognize partnerships and determine benefits. He also called for a law to extend benefits to domestic partners.

This month, Obama called on Congress to repeal the Defense Of Marriage Act.
While Brazilians are generally more tolerant of homosexual conduct than their neighbors in Latin America, the country remains something of a paradox. Judges have granted foreign partners in gay relationships the right to residency and have authorized civil unions that bestow many of the same benefits of marriage to gay couples, but many segments of society remain openly hostile to homosexuals.

A handful of transgender men and women from Brazil also have been granted asylum in the U.S. based on testimony that they had been victims of violence.

Since 1994, sexual orientation has been grounds for asylum in the United States after a ruling by then-Attorney General Janet Reno. Dozens of asylum seekers from the Middle East, Latin America and Africa have won asylum on that ground, according to Immigration Equality, a New York-based nonprofit group that helps gay clients with immigration cases.

However, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services doesn’t keep data on asylum cases won on sexual orientation claims.
This story is located at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/27/genesio-oliveira-gay-braz_n_335376.html

Story continued:
Immigration Judges Often Picked Based On GOP Ties
Law Forbids Practice; Courts Being Reshaped

By Amy Goldstein and Dan Eggen

The Bush administration increasingly emphasized partisan political ties over expertise in recent years in selecting the judges who decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of immigrants, despite laws that preclude such considerations, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

At least one-third of the immigration judges appointed by the Justice Department since 2004 have had Republican connections or have been administration insiders, and half lacked experience in immigration law, Justice Department, immigration court and other records show.
Two newly appointed immigration judges were failed candidates for the U.S. Tax Court nominated by President Bush; one fudged his taxes and the other was deemed unqualified to be a tax judge by the nation’s largest association of lawyers. Both were Republican loyalists.
Justice officials also gave immigration judgeships to a New Jersey election law specialist who represented GOP candidates, a former treasurer of the Louisiana Republican Party, a White House domestic policy adviser and a conservative crusader against pornography.

These appointments, all made by the attorney general, have begun to reshape a system of courts in which judges, ruling alone, exercise broad powers — deporting each year nearly a quarter-million immigrants, who have limited rights to appeal and no right to an attorney. The judges do not serve fixed terms.

Department officials say they changed their hiring practices in April but defend their selections. Still, the injection of political considerations into the selection of immigration judges has attracted congressional attention in the wake of controversy over the Bush administration’s dismissal last year of nine U.S. attorneys.

The Post analysis is the first systematic examination of the people appointed to immigration courts, the relationships that led to their selection and the experience they brought to their position. The review, based on Justice records and research into the judges’ backgrounds, encompassed the 37 current judges approved by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales or his predecessor, John D. Ashcroft, starting in 2004.

That year is when the Justice Department began to jettison the civil service process that traditionally guided the selections in favor of political considerations, according to sworn congressional testimony by one senior department official and a statement by the lawyer for another official.

Those two officials, D. Kyle Sampson and Monica M. Goodling, have said they were told the practice was legal. But Justice spokesman Dean Boyd said that immigration judges are considered civil service employees who may not be chosen based on political factors, unlike judges in federal criminal courts.

All the judges appointed during this period who arrived with experience in immigration law were prosecutors or held other immigration enforcement jobs. That was a reversal of a trend during the Clinton administration in which the Justice Department sought to balance such appointees with ones who had been attorneys representing immigrants, according to current and former immigration judges.

Boyd said in a written statement that judges appointed during the Bush administration are “well qualified for their current positions” and that “outstanding immigration judges can come from diverse backgrounds.” Boyd also said that race and ethnicity are not factors in hiring but cited statistics showing that immigration courts are “considerably more diverse” than other kinds of courts.

The department launched a new hiring program in April that requires public announcements of open positions and detailed evaluations and interviews, with a final decision still in the hands of the attorney general. The action came partly in response to a lawsuit by a veteran immigration counsel who alleged discrimination when she was passed over for two judgeships.
Some judges and other immigration experts are highly critical of the administration’s practice of placing political allies on the courts. “When we start seeing people who look like [they’re fulfilling] someone’s political debt get these positions, it starts to become disturbing,” said Crystal Williams, a deputy director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

“Immigration law is very complex,” said Denise Slavin, an immigration judge since 1995 in Miami, who is president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, a union. “So generally speaking, it’s very good to have someone coming into this area with [an] immigration background. It’s very difficult, for those who don’t, to catch up.”

Mike Hethmon, general counsel of the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which advocates stricter border policies, said, however, that a strong legal background is more important than immigration experience. “The qualities of a good adjudicator don’t necessarily focus on the subject matter,” he said.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration has said it is employing the nation’s 54 immigration courts, with 226 judges, as a central tool of its anti-terrorism policies, using them to deport hundreds of noncitizens who were detained as terrorism suspects but were not charged with crimes.

In 2002, it created stiffer guidelines for appeals and wrote new rules sharply reducing the number of judges who hear them, partly to reduce a large case backlog. That has made it harder for people deemed unwanted by the government to stay in the country.
The infusion of politics into the selection of judges began in the midst of this transformation of the court system. Sampson and Goodling, who participated in the prosecutor firings, did not say which immigration judges had been selected for their political leanings. But records and interviews reveal the Republican ties of many.

One was Glen L. Bower, whom Bush initially nominated to the tax court. He was never confirmed because lawmakers noted that his amended tax returns showed he had taken inappropriate deductions for entertainment, gifts and meals for three consecutive years. A former Republican state legislator, Bower was the revenue director to then-Illinois Gov. George H. Ryan (R), who would be convicted on racketeering and fraud charges.

A few months earlier, another failed tax court nominee, Francis L. Cramer, a former campaign treasurer for Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), was appointed as an immigration judge. Cramer’s bid for a seat on the tax court foundered after the American Bar Association’s taxation section wrote a rare letter to the Senate Finance Committee, saying: “We are unable to conclude that he is qualified to serve.”

Cramer was then hired by the Justice Department’s tax division and was briefly lent to the department’s Office of Immigration Litigation. Ashcroft approved him as an immigration judge in March 2004. The Government Accountability Office, a legislative watchdog, criticized the appointment, saying, “Converting a Schedule C [political] appointee with less than 6 months of immigration law experience to an immigration judge position raises questions about the fairness of the conversion.”

Another politically connected lawyer, Garry D. Malphrus, was appointed to Arlington’s immigration court in 2005. He had been associate director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and, before that, a Republican aide on two Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittees.

During the Florida recount after the 2000 presidential election that brought Bush to office, Malphrus took part in the “Brooks Brothers riot” — when GOP staffers from Washington chanted “stop the fraud” at Miami’s polling headquarters.

Other appointed Republican loyalists include lawyer Dorothy A. Harbeck, who represented New Jersey’s last GOP candidate for governor; Mark H. Metcalf, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the state Senate and U.S. Congress from Kentucky who went on to several positions at the Justice Department unrelated to immigration; and Chris A. Brisack, a former Texas county GOP chairman who had been named by Bush, the governor at the time, to the state’s Library and Archives Commission.

Bruce A. Taylor, who was appointed as an immigration judge in Arizona last year, was general counsel for two conservative anti-pornography groups, Citizens for Decency Through Law and the National Law Center for Children and Families. Taylor also worked as a senior counsel in the Criminal Division at the Justice Department, but his résumé does not indicate immigration-related experience.

Like other immigration judges contacted last week, Taylor declined to comment. He said the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees immigration courts, had instructed immigration judges to refer questions to the main office in Falls Church. A spokeswoman there referred questions to Justice headquarters.

The recent pattern of hiring for immigration judges provoked a 2005 lawsuit by the government’s chief immigration lawyer in El Paso for 22 years. Guadalupe Gonzales — no relation to the attorney general — alleged she was denied a judgeship twice in favor of less-qualified white men who were hired without an open application process.

Her suit alleged that, between 2001 and late 2005, only two Latinos were appointed nationwide as immigration judges. Justice Department records make clear that the immigration bench is overwhelmingly male and white, even though Spanish-speaking people from Latin America make up at least 70 percent of the caseload.

The Justice Department responded in court papers that Gonzales’s lawsuit should be thrown out; it argued that she had not identified a discriminatory practice and that immigration judges did not have be hired as part of a competitive process. It said that all but four immigration judges chosen during the period in contention — from late 2003 to 2006 — were hired without public competition.

In September, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled against the department, finding that Gonzales “had identified a particular policy that has a discriminatory effect on a particular group.” Sullivan said that one judge hired in El Paso did not meet the minimum qualifications for the job. Neither, the judge said, had Gonzales’s level of experience.
This story is located at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/10/AR2007061001229_pf.html

UPDATE: June 4, 2010

Tim Coco and Genesio Oliveira married in 2005, among the throngs who wed after same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts. But for nearly three years, they lived apart — Coco in Haverhill and Oliveira in his native Brazil — because federal law does not recognize their union.

On Wednesday, Oliveira returned to Massachusetts for an emotional reunion after federal immigration officials took the rare step of granting him permission to stay for one year on humanitarian grounds, clearing the way for him to try again for legal residency. His return followed personal appeals by Senator John F. Kerry, US Attorney General Eric Holder, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on their behalf.

“We’re overjoyed. Words can’t express it,’’ Coco, 49, an ad agency owner, said yesterday from their home in Haverhill, where he had decorated his yard with yellow ribbons to mark their long separation. “Every new moment now is a fresh new moment in our life.’’

Kerry called the couple heroes for persevering in their marriage.

“Here were two people who loved each other and were as committed to each other as you could ever imagine, and a quirk in the law was being allowed to keep them apart. I just wanted to do everything I could to reunite them,’’ he said in a statement.

Kerry also praised Napolitano and Holder, saying, “They really listened, and they righted this wrong.’’ Unlike heterosexuals, gays and lesbians cannot sponsor their immigrant spouses for legal US residency.

Oliveira was allowed to return because US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is under the Department of Homeland Security, granted him humanitarian parole. Parole is a rarely used mechanism that permits otherwise inadmissible people to enter the United States for “urgent humanitarian reasons’’ or “significant public benefit,’’ said agency spokesman Chris Bentley. About 250 to 350 people are granted such parole every year, he said.

He declined to comment on Oliveira’s case because of privacy laws. Holder’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Humanitarian parole is temporary, but Coco said the couple might seek to reopen Oliveira’s case or try another venue so that he can remain permanently.

According to the 2000 US Census, some 35,000 same-sex couples include one US citizen and a partner who is not.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, criticized the move, saying it seemed unfair to grant a special exception for Oliveira when so many others, such as earthquake survivors in Haiti, are clamoring to get into the country.

“It’s a side-door attempt at changing the Defense of Marriage Act,’’ he said, citing a 1996 federal law declaring that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman. “That’s the problem with our immigration laws; it’s just this vast collection of exceptions for people who get the attention of a particular bureaucrat or judge or politician.’’

But Kerry and others contended that Oliveira was a victim of injustice. He had applied for asylum in 2002, saying a doctor had raped him in Brazil when he was 16 and he suffered discrimination in his native country because he is gay. An immigration judge found his story credible but rejected his asylum claim, noting that Oliveira had returned to Brazil twice without incident, including for his father’s funeral.

Oliveira was ordered to return to Brazil in 2007. By then, he had been married two years and living in Haverhill with Coco and their dog, Q-tip.

For nearly three years, the couple talked nightly over the Internet and lobbied lawmakers and others for Oliveira’s return. Coco estimates they spent about $250,000 in legal fees and other expenses on the case.

Oliveira missed the death of Coco’s mother in 2008 and lived in near seclusion just blocks from the doctor who had assaulted him as a teen in his hometown in eastern Brazil.

Though Brazil recognizes same-sex marriage for immigration purposes, violence against gays persists. More than 100 homosexuals and transvestites were killed last year in Brazil, according to the US Department of State’s human rights report.

Wednesday night, the couple celebrated with family and friends. They finished each other’s sentences. Oliveira whipped up a batch of chicken Alfredo, with strawberries for dessert.

“It seems like I never left,’’ Oliveira said. “This has made Tim and I stronger than ever. Our commitment for each other, I always say to him, is unbreakable.’’

This part of the story is located at the following URL:
http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/06/04/gay_couple_get_a_boost_in_winning_bid_to_reunite/

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