Thursday, August 4, 2011

Deportation nightmare splits up gay couple: 'If he were a woman, it wouldn't be an issue' (NY Daily News)

Deportation nightmare splits up gay couple: 'If he were a woman, it wouldn't be an issue'


Thursday, August 4th 2011, 4:00 AM

Richard Dennis recalls the bittersweet moment when New York adopted same-sex marriage while he and his partner were separated by thousands of miles - and federal law.

"As happy a day as that was, I kept thinking, 'As far as the federal government is concerned, you're still single,'" said Dennis, 47, whose partner, Jair Izquierdo, was deported to his native Peru in December.

The couple had to celebrate Izquierdo's 34th birthday on Monday by chatting over Skype.

"It breaks my heart when we talk, to tell him that there's no good news," said Dennis, a bank executive in Jersey City. "It's so lonely at home now."

The pair, who met in 2005 and were joined in a civil union on Valentine's Day three years later, would be able to petition for a green card if they were straight.

Gay couples don't enjoy immigration benefits because the federal Defense of Marriage Act bars recognition of same-sex unions.

Izquierdo, a hair and makeup stylist, overstayed his tourist visa and lost his bid for asylum. He lived for nearly a year with a final deportation order - until his world unraveled in October.

A federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent tracked him down and nabbed him by calling his East Village salon, pretending to book him as a makeup artist for a wedding. He was arrested and detained for two months before being deported.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), other lawmakers and the advocacy group Immigration Equality have appealed to the feds on the couple's behalf. Menendez's office recently made a last-ditch request to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, asking the agency to consider Izquierdo's bid for humanitarian parole. That would let him come back for a limited time.

"They can't live as a gay couple in Peru. It's not safe for them," said Rachel Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality.

In the months since Izquierdo was deported, President Obama has directed Immigration and Customs Enforcement to focus on deporting immigrants with criminal records. Officials have called off deportation in cases similar to that of the couple's.

Federal officials did not return a request for comment.

Dennis vowed to his partner he would not give up.

"This is his home," he said. "I should be able to sponsor him. If he were a woman, it wouldn't be an issue."

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