Home / Couples and Families / No Greater Gift: Victory for a Couple Threatened with Deportation

No Greater Gift: Victory for a Couple Threatened with Deportation

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by Immigration Equality Staff Attorney Tom Plummer

On Wednesday, Michael Thomas and John Brandoli received life-changing news. After a year and a half fighting to remain together despite threats of deportation against Michael – and living with the constant fear of their family being torn apart – John and Michael received news that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) had agreed to join in a motion to stop Michael’s removal from the United States.

John and Michael are a loving couple of over six years who were married in Wilbraham, Massachusetts on March 28, 2010 surrounded by family and friends.

Michael and John’s attorney reached out to Immigration Equality over a year ago to consult with our legal team and to devise a strategy to keep the couple together. John’s spousal petition, asking for Michael to be recognized as his legal husband, was ultimately denied. And on Valentine’s Day of this year, an immigration judge ordered Michael to be  deported, despite his marriage to John.

While John and Michael’s attorney appealed those rulings, Immigration Equality began working closely with the family to halt Michael’s deportation, seizing upon recent guidelines for discretion and the Administration’s pledge to stop separating families, including gay and lesbian families, too.

On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed to Immigration Equality that ICE had agreed to join in a motion to close Michael’s case.

As I spoke with John and Michael about the decision, they expressed their heart-felt gratitude for everyone who had worked so hard on behalf of their family.

They noted, in particular, the incredible advocacy of U.S. Senator John Kerry.  In April, Senator Kerry sent a letter, along with eleven of his colleagues in the U.S. Senate, calling upon Secretary Napolitano and Attorney General Holder to exercise discretion on behalf of gay and lesbian families like John and Michael.

When Immigration Equality brought John and Michael’s case to Senator Kerry’s attention, his staff met with John and Michael, and an incredible team of advocates on the Senator’s staff immediately leapt into action on their behalf.  On August 23rd, Senator Kerry sent a letter to ICE Director John Morton specifically asking that the agency join in a motion to halt Michael’s removal.

On October 27, 2011, ICE initially informed Michael’s attorney that they had decided not to exercise discretion in the case. Undeterred, Senator Kerry continued to advocate for the family. His office continued to monitor the case closely and to communicate their strong commitment to the family.  In a November 26, 2011 Boston Globe story on John and Michael’s case, Senator Kerry spoke out again, saying “This is a law-abiding, lawfully married couple being denied basic civil rights solely because they’re gay. . . . We’ve got a vicious cycle where protections for some Massachusetts families are not protections for all.’’

Michael and John also noted the work of Immigration Equality’s policy, media and legal teams, and the advocacy of their attorneys, Tony Collins and Marina Brakefield.  They  are also incredibly grateful for the care with which the Boston Globe and the Huffington Post told their story, and the efforts of PFLAG to bring attention to how the case was affecting their family.

Finally, John and Michael were fortunate to have the constant love and support of their entire family.  Everyone in the Brandoli family stood by John and Michael through this ordeal.  The love and support of the family is evident in a December 12 column at the Huffington Post, in which PFLAG Executive Director Jody Huckaby shared the plea of John’s mother Lenora to allow her family to stay together.  In her letter Lenora wrote:

“Everyone deserves a family, and every family deserves to stay together. . . . this letter is a plea, a mother’s plea. Michael is my son. . . . Michael and John truly love each other and have made a life and home together. Michael is accepted — not just accepted but loved — by all our friends and family members. He belongs with us. He belongs with John. We love him and he loves us. I ask you from the bottom of my heart to give this wonderful man a chance at life, a chance to stay with his family. Every family deserves this. Please close this case for Michael and for us.”

This week’s victory was possible because a brave couple stood by each other; a U.S. Senator advocated fiercely for lesbian and gay families; legal, communications and policy teams worked hand-in-hand; an Administration stood by their commitment to recognize gay and lesbian families; and a family came together to ensure a mother’s plea was answered.

When I spoke with Lenora about the outcome in her sons’ case, she noted that her family would celebrate the Holidays together without the fear of losing Michael.  On this note she simply said, “there is no greater gift that I could ask for.”

16 Responses to No Greater Gift: Victory for a Couple Threatened with Deportation

  1. Randell says:

    Being part of a bi-national couple, I couldn’t be more happy. Now is the time for the fall of DOMA and equal rights for all Americans and their spouses!

  2. Fred Seifts says:

    This story found it’s place in my heart and I am so happy for this FAMILY. I know how they felt, I was born an American Citizen over 67 years ago, I have served my Country in the U.S.Navy, I have worked all my life without any help of Government Programs, I don’t ask for much but only be treated fairly. I married an Argentinian Man and now MUST give up my country because the U.S. Government will not accept us as a FAMILY so we can share our lives together here where I own a home. I must sell my home, give up everything I own so that I can move to be with the person I married in a COUNTRY that both WELCOMES us and ACCEPTS us for who we are. Thank You ARGENTINA, Don’t Cry for Me AMERICA, I will go freely, if you can’t accept the man I married then you can’t accept me either!

  3. matumbo says:

    While i see individual success for some Bi national LGBT families i have to sit and wonder if we are only working for a select few, or for all the Bi national families!!, I have to seat and wonder about the couples that are in hiding what happens to them, how are they being helped,? Do they have to out themselves to Immigration officials to get the reprieve being given Just wondering ? There is Strength in numbers, not individualism. Secondly there was an article about the Obama administration trying to stop discrimination toward the LGBT family round the globe, Funy we were not allowed to add any comments.

  4. Jim Bowie says:

    One day there will be no discrimination – I only hope we live to see it!

  5. Steve says:

    This is great, but I have noticed that none of these articles ever discuss the status of said couple after their case has been closed. Is that person now allowed to get a drivers license, apply for jobs, apply for school, etc etc. And if all of these are a flat out no, how is this good?

  6. James Miller says:

    Keep up your amazing work and congratulations! I’m back in Berlin because there was no option to stay with my American partner in the U.S. I’m happy to read these good news!

  7. Marie says:

    I agree with you @matumbo…. Im very happy for them , but what can be do for us , the ones not out yet? I dont want to publicate my private life . Please try to work on a special visa or something for those who have their significant other in another country and those that live eveyday in fear of deportation.

  8. Judy Rickard says:

    Every decision, every victory helps us all. This is good news for now and for the future.

  9. Pingback: Oral Arguments Heard in Golinski DOMA Case « Women Born Transsexual

  10. Pingback: Gay Marriage Watch » Blog Archive » MA: Married BiNational Couple Spared Deportation After Senator Kerry Intervenes

  11. James says:

    I totally agree with matumbo! There are a lot of people out there whom are scared every day of what is going to happen to them! And my husband and I are part of them. Even though I am in legal status to work here for the next two years, and my husband is a US-born citizen, there is an expiration date to our life here, and we are finding no comfort, no help at all … we have been awaiting for change for the past few years, and I can see that the situation is still the same. We are exhausted, we feel undesired, and rejected and as far as hope and change go … even if it is appreciated, it does not change materially and concretely on an every day basis the injustice and crime that are being committed – that is, breaching a constitutional right to be considered as equal, to live happy, and free. And before helping other countries with their LGBT issues, let us concentrate on the ongoing crime in this country to force families of US citizens to leave the country in order to be able to stay with their own and loved ones!

  12. Pingback: Victory for a Gay Couple Threatened with Deportation | Queer Landia

  13. Joe DiDonato says:

    Thank you Senator Kerry. Its time for equal rights for all people.

  14. Larry says:

    My husband is Canadian. I am American. I cannot sponsor him to become a legal resident here since the U.S. Government does not recognize our marriage. I can become a legal resident of Canada. After President Obama was elected I thought that this might change and I would be able to sponsor him to live in my country. It just hasn’t happened, therefore I am going to apply for residency in Canada and give up my country. Shame on the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

  15. JP says:

    I’m really happy for Michael Thomas and his partner but like pointed out another commenter it’s annoying to see only case to case victory and not global victory for all. I don’t believe Obama BS anymore, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender are second class citizens. and I don’t see the change coming soon In december 2009 I arrived to the US to see my 8 years american partner, and for coming to the US to many times I have been put in a detention center, jailed like a criminal, humiliated and sent back to my country. I have been coming in and out from the US for 8 years, we spent countless amount of money to stay together. For the last two year we’ve been able to only spent 3 months together (2 weeks at a time) and we are connected on video ichat and FaceTime 24 hours thanks to apple, but this is not a life. Now I want to see a clear change, equality for all and not only for one couple that got help from a politician. I’m happy for them but it shouldn’t be one to one case. Happy Holiday

  16. Pingback: What America’s Same-Sex Couples and Our Families Gained in 2011 | YGA(dot)Net

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