Give to every human being every right that you claim for yourself

Robert Ingersoll

The “Reunite this Family” term was coined by the Boston Globe in an editorial in support of Tim Coco and Genesio “Junior” Oliveira.

“Great strides toward equality for gays have been made in this country, but the woeful fate of Tim Coco and Genesio Oliveira shows that thousands of same-sex couples, even in Massachusetts , still aren't really full citizens.”

“Reunite this Family,”
Boston
Globe, Aug. 27, 2007

Temporarily Reunited, Married Mass. Couple Seeks Long-Term Justice

Tim Coco and Genesio “Junior” Oliveira are a happily and legally married Massachusetts couple. They were happy, that is, until August, 2007, when they were forcibly separated by the U.S. government, which does not recognize their marriage under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Background

The couple met early in 2002 while Junior, a medical student and Brazilian national, was on vacation is the United States. After months of telephone calls and e-mailing, Junior returned to the U.S. to be with Tim. He voluntarily entered the lengthy immigration process by the fall of that year. As the law allows, Junior received his Social Security number and work authorization while his case made its way through the system. Junior also attended a local community college and became proficient in the English language – a prerequisite for resuming his medical studies.

During the Justice Department hiring scandal, a conservative ideologue, Francis L. Cramer, was appointed to hear Junior’s case. While Judge Cramer found Junior’s testimony to meet the required legal standard of “credible,” he inexplicably denied the immigration petition in 2006. A year later, it was reported that Judge Cramer was inexperienced and not qualified to serve. As the Washington Post reported June 11, 2007:

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…

…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.”
[Full Text from the Washington Post]

Judge Cramer’s decision was rubber stamped by a single judge of the Board of Immigration Appeals. Junior was ordered to “voluntarily” depart the U.S. within 60 days and he complied with that order in August, 2007. Upon his return to Brazil, his visa was cancelled.

Why DOMA Must Fall

In 2002, same sex marriage was not yet legal in Massachusetts and any possible legal remedy related to marriage was not available. Junior and Tim married March 3, 2005 as his case moved through the system. Despite the marriage, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into law by President Bill Clinton, prohibited Tim from sponsoring Junior as a permanent resident even though heterosexuals may do so.

The couple begged, fought and undertook legal actions in their search for relief. They found none until Senator John F. Kerry courageously intervened (see “Thank You! Junior Returns Home Thanks to Senator John Kerry!). In June, 2010, the couple was temporarily reunited in the United States. Eventually, however, they will have to return to the battle to make their reunion permanent.

As so-called advocacy groups have largely ignored Tims and Juniors plight, the couple has nevertheless influenced the Department of Homeland Security’s policies in terms of deportation priorities. They also pushed Attorney General Eric Holder towards their position by long advocating the AG has the authority—if not the obligation—to reverse Cramer’s ruling on Junior’s asylum request. Although Holder did not act on the couple’s request—and, in fact, reneged on the informal agreement that brought Junior home—the AG’s acknowledgment of his authority in one DOMA case seems to have come from their script. Finally, it seems unlikely that it is a mere coincidence Cramer “retired” about the same time Junior returned to U.S. soil. The world may never know or appreciate Tims and Juniors impact on the debate.

During the worst of the battle. Junior took to producing videos.

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