Brian & Alfonso Fight DOMA Deportation in San Francisco Immigration Court on March 22, After More Than A Decade Together

Photo by Steven Underhill

October 31, 2001

When I went into San Francisco that night I wasn’t planning on meeting my soul mate. My plan was to hang out with friends and enjoy watching all the party goers in their Halloween costumes. That all changed when I noticed a handsome man sitting in the corner. He had a gorgeous heart shaped face, puppy dog eyes, a brilliant smile and a laugh that cut through the tumult of the crowd. It took me about an hour to work up the courage to go talk to him, and when I finally offered to buy him a drink, he shot me down. Dejected, but not defeated, I retreated to the comfort of my friends. Later I noticed him again, he noticed me noticing him, and we traded smiles. So I offered him a drink, and he refused a second time but we did strike up a conversation. By the end of the night I had learned his name, Alfonso, we had exchanged phone numbers and then gone our separate ways.

A week later we met at a coffee shop for our first date and man was it ever awkward. I showed up excited to get to know him better. He showed up, but not alone – he had brought along his straight friend who did not know that he was gay and who had no clue that she was the third-wheel on our first date. We sat there chatting for hours until we were so full of coffee and cake that we couldn’t take anymore. So I walked them to their car and we again went our separate ways.

At that time I was living in the San Francisco East Bay, but working in Monterey. So I was only home on the weekends, which turned out to be an ideal framework for our relationship to take hold. We would chat by phone every night while I was away. And then we would see each other on Friday or Saturday for a date night. Soon that one date per week wasn’t enough, so we would spend Saturday and Sunday together. Then that wasn’t enough, so I gave Alfonso a key to my place and he would get to my house before me on Fridays when I came back home and wouldn’t leave until after I left for work on Mondays. And then we moved-in together and have been inseparable ever since.

From then on we have been living our lives together as any couple would. We adopted our wonderful dog, Maggie, from the local Animal Rescue Foundation. We go on vacations together. We host fabulous parties together. We support charities together. We’ve been back and forth to Missouri numerous times to spend Christmas with my family and friends. My family members frequently come to California to stay with us for a week at a time. Alfonso is an integral part of our family and is there for every joyous celebration. He was with me in Tennessee to celebrate Gramps’ 80th birthday with four generations of my relatives. He was with me when we took family photos to give to my parents in celebration of their 40th wedding anniversary. Last year we went on a family vacation to Disney World and all stayed together in a house for a week.

He has also been here to see me through the tough times in my life as I have been here for him. He was here to give me encouragement when I transitioned careers in 2003. His was the shoulder that I cried on when my best friend’s father died in an accident way before his time. He was here to console me when my grandmother passed away. I was at the hospital with him every day while his grandmother was in the Intensive Care Unit. When she passed, I was here for him at the funeral home to help him mourn the loss. Our lives are meant to be together – to be here for each other, like any couple.

Our life was on a happy, albeit somewhat boringly ordinary, trajectory until one fateful night last summer. That night and the events that followed have brought me to a whole new level of understanding about how precarious Alfonso’s life had been up to this point. That night we were pulled over for a routine traffic stop. The local law enforcement did their regular background checks and that is when the train went off of the proverbial rails. You see, the local authorities have been conscripted by the federal government in a weird, Orwellian, 1984, Big-Brother sort of way so that now the local authorities are forced to send information directly to federal agencies. Within a few hours I learned that something called an “immigration hold” had been placed on Alfonso’s file, so even though he was not charged with any crime by the local authorities and had no criminal record they were not allowed to release him. They took my husband away in chains and put him in a county jail. The day before I was going to have my first visitation they moved him to a different jail. Then the day before I was going to be allowed to visit him at the 2nd jail they transferred him to a 3rd facility, a federal immigration facility. It was there in San Francisco, a week after this nightmare began, that I was finally allowed to visit my husband for the first time since the nightmare began. Even though he is not a criminal, they brought him in to a tiny visitation booth in handcuffs and we sat there talking and crying until they took him away 10 minutes later.

I had retained an attorney in San Francisco who filed a request that Alfonso be released on bond, so I left that day thinking he would be home soon. That is when the train jumped even further off the tracks. For some reason, the immigration officials decided the smartest thing to do would be to spend tax payer dollars to put my husband on a prison jet that night and fly him to a facility out in the desert somewhere in Arizona. I had to start all over again with a new attorney in Arizona who finally was able to schedule a bond hearing that ultimately resulted in Alfonso being released two weeks after he was taken to Arizona. I flew to Arizona on the very first flight I could catch the day I heard that the bond had been approved. I had no idea where he would be dropped off. I only knew that he would be alone and that I had to get to him.  Finally, Immigration and Customs Enforcement allowed him to return home, but not before initiating formal “removal” proceedings to deport Alfonso to Mexico, a country has not lived in for more than 20 years. If the government succeeds in deporting him, Alfonso will be barred from returning for 10 years.

March 2012

So now we are reunited, living together in our home with our dog, surrounded by our friends and family. But for us the nightmare is far from over. Because of an archaic law called DOMA, the federal government will not recognize our marriage. We are Registered Domestic Partners in the state of California and we were lawfully married in New York, yet the federal government refuses to treat us all like any other married couple. As a gay American citizen the federal government offers me zero, zilch, nada, null access to the federal rights that all married couples have. This is not an issue of separate but equal. There are no separate federal rights for married gay couples. There are no rights at all. This is not a front of the bus, back of the bus issue. This is the federal government telling us to get the hell off of the bus. They called it the “Defense of Marriage Act” when they made it law in 1996 when I was only 22 years old. But now that I am 37 and I am being persecuted by the federal government, I can tell you that DOMA is more like “Destroy Our Marriage Aggressively.”  There is no other way to describe how I feel when my government puts my husband in chains, whisks him away to a remote detention facility, and tries to deport him.

Of the estimated 1,138 federal benefits that are granted to all married straight couples and denied to all married gay couples, there is one in particular that affects me and Alfonso. I am denied the right to sponsor my husband for a green card because of DOMA. So Mr. President I need your help. I am calling on you to stop the deportation of my husband. Not with vague references to a deportation policy that has been reformed to keep families together, but with explicit written directives to stop deportations of couples like, who but for DOMA, would have access to a green card.  I deserve to see that in writing. It is an outrage that the administration hides behind general language, and leaves it up to local ICE officials to implement “prosecutorial discretion” guidelines. I have filed a green card petition for Alfonso on the basis of our marriage. I understand that DOMA, though it is unconstitutional, may prevent my petition from being immediately approved. But Mr. President, there is no law on the books that says my petition must be rejected. I implore you to hold my marriage-based petition in abeyance until the day when true justice can be served and the petition can be approved. Please instruct Attorney General, Eric Holder, and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, to hold in abeyance my petition for Alfonso and all green card petitions by married gay, bi-national couples. Alfonso and I have spent the last 10 years of our lives together in a loving, committed relationship. Please don’t force us to spend the next 10 years torn apart.

Portrait of an American Family: Brian's Parents' 40th Wedding Anniversary (Freedom Photography)

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  • Thomas Blair

    Brian and Alfonso keep up the fight. I know that justice is just around the corner. There are thousands of us in the same situation. We will see justice soon I have hope. Hang in there guys.

    March 18, 2012
  • Jana Smith

    This breaks my heart. Seriously … Until we are all equal NO one is equal.
    Jana

    March 19, 2012
  • Good luck to you! So glad to see you are challenging this and have the wise counsel of your lawyer. We have the same problem with U.S. laws and appreciate that wise counsel too.

    March 19, 2012
  • Giovanny Bello

    Brian and Alfonso, your story broke my heart , I saw myself talking when Alfonso was doing it, I am in the exact situation that you guys are right now, I came from Colombia more than 6 years ago. After 6 months of being here, I meet the most beautiful and wonderful person I could ever imagine meeting, a beautiful South African ( american citizen ) man. It was love at the first sight ( he looks alike Brian). We are leaving a wonderful life together since then, full of love and happiness ( we marriaged in New York almost one year ago), but we are always afraid of being torn apart.

    Love from us.

    Gio.

    March 19, 2012
    • Giovanny Bello

      Look for me in Facebook .

      March 19, 2012
  • Stephen B

    This is a travesty. I have been fortunate enough to know Alfonso and Brian and they do not deserve this. PLEASE KEEP FIGHTING ALFIE AND BRIAN!!!!!!

    March 19, 2012
  • Penny

    Tell me how I can help… This is criminal what they are doing. I wish you all the joy in the world and all the luck in fighting this.

    March 19, 2012
  • Rex Banks

    I know exactly how you guys feel. I’m an American – my husband is Israeli. What is happening to you now was my worst night mare – that he would be caught and threatened to be deported. We couldn’t take it anymore and ended up immigrating to Canada 10 years ago – where we are both now citizens and legally married. We had to completely restart our lives – but we are together. I sincerely hope that you’re able to find a way to stay in the USA – my heart goes out to you. .

    March 19, 2012
  • I hope that your case goes well and that those making the decision will see the injustice in what is happening with you and thousands of other gay couples. Hopefully minds and hearts are changing and DOMA will be overturned like DADT was. I wish you best of luck and happiness in your future. Love will find a way!
    David

    March 19, 2012
  • Emperatris

    Brian & Alfonso,

    my heart breaks to hear of your story, I want to support you in any way that I can. Please keep me posted, I will be there for any protest, demonstrations whatever it takes.

    March 19, 2012
  • Ken Lake

    My heart goes out to you guys. It is time for President Obama to step up to the plate and come forward to change the laws. LGBT and gays should have more rights than what we have.These guys have been together for many years. They should stay together. I will be there for you guys for whatever i can do.. My bf is in the Philippines. I wil do as I say. if The laws are not changed soon I am MOVING so i can be with the one i love. PRESIDENT,NOW IS THE TIME .YOUR PEOPLE ARE CALLING UPON YOU FOR THE RIGHT THING TO DO.Please do it. We stand with you Brian & Alfonso

    March 19, 2012
  • Barbara Baccari

    My heart is breaking for u and I CAN’T believe this is happening to the 2 greatest individuals and luvs I have known. I am there for u with whatever u need.

    March 19, 2012
  • Kirstin

    Brian & Alphonso,

    If there is anything my wife and I can do from Missouri, please post. We’ll share your story as much as possible. Our hearts are with you. Good luck.

    March 19, 2012
  • Cori Phillips

    Alfonso and Brian…you guys are part of our family and we are by your side and here for you guys. We love you both so much…we will not let you go anywhere!

    March 19, 2012
  • Victoria Difortuna

    We all deserve respect and a fair law.
    It does not matter if we are gay, str8, lesbian, transgender or bisexual. We are humans.
    Good luck boys!

    March 20, 2012
  • Kate Hamm

    My heart goes out to Brian and Alfonso, but there must be more done than merely sending good thoughts…

    Has the petition to President Obama and Attorney General Holder been written yet? Where can we sign and how can we pass it on?

    I want my children, friends, and fellow citizens to be free to marry the person that they love without fear that they will be torn apart by their government.

    Please, help keep the government out of our bodies and marriages!

    March 20, 2012
  • Christopher Cuevas

    My dearest Brian and Alfonso,
    My heart, sympathy and absolute RESPECT are yours. You both are so strong and maintain such grace in this most trying time. You have the love and support of the multitude of people who love you. Alfonso, You are such an important and cherished part of our community…. Don’t ever lose sight of that!!

    We will all spread the message that this situation can and will never be tolerated. Change must happen now. There is no time but the present!!

    March 20, 2012
  • Josh Russell

    Wow, I was truly affected by your story Alfonso. As someone myself who has been married to a foreign national for the past 4 years being able to travel abroad and within the US without worry of her safety here, I have seen how many people are married just for the green card, and this includes gay individuals married to someone straight just for that purpose, even those in other relationships. So, of course the writing’s on the wall here. We can keep giving incentives for people to fake marriage to get around this forcing them to be dishonest by our legal standard, or we can allow people to do this openly and naturally the way you and Brian have. The way it is now, people in the gay community wanting to do this the honest way are suffering. Let me know if we, also being a bi-national couple, can help in any way to get your story conveyed.

    March 20, 2012
  • brad

    Although we never went through anything close to the nightmare you experienced with being incarcerated, I know what life under constant threat is like. I have been with my partner Antonio for 18 years, the first 12 of which he was here illegally. Luckily we were able to get him asylum and eventually full U.S. citizenship. It was a scary process because at any point his application could have been denied at which point he would have been deported. I wish you all the best. This is so wrong.

    March 20, 2012
  • I can’t imagine what feeling victim to your own government must feel like, but my heart goes out to both of you. I hope that in the future I can hear of how this was all in the past and that you can move on with your lives freely! Sending tons of love!

    March 20, 2012
  • Ethan

    Brian and Alfonso, my husband and I wish you the best and happiness. Our hearts go out to you. Good luck with the case and keep fighting.

    March 20, 2012
  • Trevor

    You have my full support! I hope you get this horrible chapter behind you two as soon as possible.

    March 20, 2012
  • Debbie Rogers

    Love you both, let me know what more I can do, sharing your post with as many people I know, even London,UK.
    Will keep posting on Norf London Facebook and personal.
    Xoxoxo

    March 20, 2012
  • Megan

    Alfonso and Brian, I am so, so sorry for what you are going through, and we will support you in any way we can. We are your neighbors just down the hill, I often see you guys working in your yard, what a lovely couple you are. You are in our hearts and prayers.

    March 20, 2012
  • kelley

    I hope that your voics are heard. It’s wrong for any cupple so in love to be forced apart. Those of us who find ours soulmates should never be seperated. You two are some of the lucky few who have found true love, good luck!

    March 21, 2012
  • Sara Mailloux

    Alfonso and Brian – You are in my thoughts and I am sending well wishes into the universe for you! You two are one of the most solid, kind, fun couples I know! I am so sorry for what you are going through, it is absolutely ridiculous.

    March 21, 2012
  • Jason Bradley

    I feel so deeply for the two of you. I will spread the word & support you as I can. This is devastatingly horrible action by outrageous ignorance.

    March 21, 2012
  • Joe Norton

    Where can we contribute for legal fees?

    March 21, 2012
    • The DOMA Project

      Donations may be made to Stop The Deportations – The DOMA Project by clicking on the donate tab on the homepage at http://www.stopthedeportations.com
      Donations are made to our fiscal sponsor, Love Honor Cherish Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization educating the public on the issue of marriage equality.

      Funds contributed are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law. However, please note that donated funds are not used to defray the cost of legal services. All legal services are donated by the law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC or paid for directly by the individuals involved. Contributions are directed to defraying costs involved in the public education campaign, to raise awareness of “DOMA deportations” and propose policy measures that could be implemented now by the executive branch that would address the continuing separations, exile and deportations impacting lesbian and gay binational couples because of DOMA.

      March 21, 2012
  • Arlene

    Brian and Alfonso, dealing with imigration is hard, costs a lot of time and money. But anything wort having is worth fighting for. I can immagine how your parents must feel. I will be praying.

    March 22, 2012
  • Flor Castellanos

    Good luck to both of you. My prayers are with you both.

    I am also married with my spouse for 10 yeas and looking forward to put a green card petition for her because she has been under TPS since 2001.

    March 22, 2012
  • Ricardo

    Alfonso and Brian: all my tears and prayers are with you and all of the LGBT binationals couples facing this unfare nightmare…

    March 22, 2012
  • Tanya

    All my love and support to both of you. You have touched be deeply and I will be thinking of you. Hold on to one another.

    April 11, 2012
  • North Carolina

    I hope you get everything straight, i been with my bf for 11 years I am puerto rican and he is Mexican , he work hard , now we own two stores, and he help the community , he live with fear, i love him and I can help him if he is send back to Mexico , I meet him when he was 22 now he is 34,
    I can’t work because I hurt my back 7 years ago, I don’t know what I would do with out him, we want to get marry and adopt a child but we can’t , can anybody help us

    April 24, 2012
  • I do feel for Brian and Alfonso. This is one of the most ridiculous and ludicrous situation I have which sprang out of the DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT, as it keenly affects binational couples in their ability to love each other and be together in a marital state. If we were dealing with heterosexual couples, this situation would not have existed at all — And, to top it all off, our President seems to be alienating himself from the conflict, partially due to this being an election year and in order to appease the constituents that want him to remain in office! This is truly a damned shame.

    April 30, 2012

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This is a pro-bono project of the law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC. Posts on this website are offered for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. The law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC has offices in New York and Los Angeles. Our practice is limited to U.S. Immigration & Nationality Law.