I’m a supporter of gay rights. And not a closet supporter either. From the time I was a kid, I have never been able to understand attacks upon the gay community. There are so many qualities that make up a human being... by the time I get through with all the things that I really admire about people, what they do with their private parts is probably so low on the list that it is irrelevant.

Paul Newman

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

Thank You!

Junior Returns Home Thanks to Senator John Kerry!

June 9, 2010

A week ago today, Junior walked through the gate at Logan International Airport and into my arms. After nearly three years of forced separation, our family had finally been reunited.

Our reunion would not have been possible without the intervention of Senator John Kerry and his amazing staff. Senator Kerry’s compassion, dedication and persistence helped us keep our faith during the darkest of times. Thank you Senator Kerry from both of us!

I first briefed Senator Kerry on the situation two years ago when he attended a Haverhill Democratic City Committee breakfast. His concern and interest was immediately evident. He personally renewed his pledge to find a solution during Congresswoman Niki Tsongas’ Fifth District Day in Washington, D.C. a short while later. His devoted team included Legislative Assistant Alexandra Nez, Chief of Staff David Wade and State Director Andrew O’Brien. Again, thank you!

Many grateful thanks to all of you too. Whether you wrote letters, contributed to our legal fund, signed petitions, helped open doors, sent a note, said prayers or simply wished us well, we could not have kept the faith without you.

There is still much to do. We have one year to turn a one-year humanitarian visa into permanent residence for Junior. Saturday’s Boston Globe editorial offers a good summary of where things stand.

Happiness, for one year only
June 5, 2010

A MARRIED Haverhill couple who were kept apart by the so-called Defense of Marriage Act got a reprieve this week, thanks to US Senator John Kerry, but the underlying injustice still needs to be remedied. On Wednesday, Genesio Oliveira returned to Massachusetts after being separated from his husband, Tim Coco, for nearly three years. Keeping families together is a high priority in US immigration rules. But the 1996 marriage law bans any federal acknowledgement of same-sex couples, so Oliveira had to return to his native Brazil.

Fortunately for Oliveira and Coco, Kerry intervened for them, as did Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Oliveira received a one-year humanitarian parole — a rare exemption that allows otherwise ineligible people into the country. Maybe some route to permanent residency will now open up. But if not, what are Oliveira and Coco supposed to do when the year is over?

There is some hope. Two important lawsuits — one by Attorney General Martha Coakley and the other by the group Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders — are challenging provisions of the federal law that discriminate against couples who were legally married in Massachusetts. Better yet, Congress could just repeal a law that, far from defending anybody’s marriage, merely hassles people who want to live together happily.

We will be sure to keep you posted.  Again, thank you!


Obama

 

Tim Coco
Obama

President Obama

Judd_Gregg

Gregg with his choice for president, Mitt Romney

Please say it isn’t so!

Obama considers anti-civil rights ideologue for Commerce post

January 30, 2009

The news today is that President Obama is considering naming anti-civil rights Senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) as U.S. commerce secretary. This would be the second time in two weeks that the president has placed an anti-gay bigot on a prized pedestal. Gregg would share the stage with evangelical minister Rick Warren, a virulent right wing ideologue who delivered Obama’s inaugural invocation.

Those who have followed these updates know that Gregg was implicated in the illegal appointment of immigration Judge Francis L. Cramer. The July 28, 2008 U.S. Department of Justice report, “An Investigation of Allegations of Politicized Hiring by Monica Goodling and Other Staff in the Office of the Attorney General,” found that Gregg conspired with DOJ staff to illegally use “political or ideological affiliations in the hiring process for career Department employees.”

In deciding the asylum case of my legally wedded spouse, Genesio J. Oliveira, Jr., Cramer was not only ignorant of immigration precedents, laws and procedures, he relied on commentary outside of the evidentiary record, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act [240(b)(4)(B)] and the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. Despite finding Oliveira’s testimony “credible” and his fear of Brazil “genuine,” Cramer apparently exercised his anti-gay credentials in denying the asylum petition. As we now know, DOJ job candidates were subject to an anti gay litmus test. According to the DOJ investigation:

We also found that many of Goodling’s and Williamson’s interview notes reflected that the topics of abortion and gay marriage were discussed during interviews. It appeared that these topics were discussed as a result of the question seeking information about how the applicant would characterize the type of conservative they were.

Senator Gregg successfully sought to have Cramer, his campaign treasurer, named as an immigration judge. As noted in the DOJ investigation, Senator Gregg’s role was more than a merely offering a recommendation, but rather the senator had been actively “pushing” Cramer’s appointment with full knowledge that the use of political considerations are illegal when employed in the naming of candidates to career positions.

 

In an internal Department e-mail dated March 18, 2004 to the Justice Management Division, Department White House Liaison Susan Richmond noted that the candidate would soon be appointed and commented: “could you . . . advise [the] Sen. . . . of this? This is the issue he’d been pushing with us.”

 

Gregg’s anti-civil rights voting record has earned him low scores from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and NAACP. Gregg, as examples, voted “yes” on prohibiting same-sex marriage and “no” on prohibiting job discrimination by sexual orientation.

 

Some speculate that naming Gregg to the Commerce post could help the Democrats reach their 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.  However, a Democratic appointment by New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch is not a sure bet. Lynch attended events for Republican John McCain. He also named GOP star Kelly Ayotte as his attorney general. Further, folks counted in the majority such as Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) cannot be relied upon to stand with the Democrats.

 

The best way to remove Gregg from the Senate is to have the Senate Select Committee on Ethics investigate his role in the illegal appointment of his campaign treasurer Cramer as an immigration judge.

 

Please urge President Obama not to reward Gregg’s past illegal activity with a cabinet post. Post in media comment sections, write letters-to-the-editor or call your Democratic senator or representative.

Tim Coco


In Memoriam

Annie M. Coco 1926-2008

A New (Angry) Phase
in the Quest for Justice

November 4, 2008

My Friends,

Junior and I are beginning a new phase in our quest for justice, fairness and humanity.

We are stepping up our activities and will no longer contain our anger and the combined anger of the thousands of couples who have been denied basic human rights, equality and, most of all, compassion. We seek, and will employ, all available political, legal and administrative remedies.

What is driving our renewed resolve? Junior made urgent requests of the U.S. Embassy to, first, visit my dying mother and, then, to attend her funeral. The embassy representative violatedU.S. law with her false and illegal declaration that Junior is an “alien unlawfully present for one year or more.” The representative knew – or should have known – this is patently untrue. Junior presented her with a letter from the Consulate General of the United States of America, So Paulo, Brazil, demonstrating his complete compliance with “voluntary departure” instructions issued by the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals.

Junior has accrued no unlawful presence. U.S. law, governing this matter, states:

INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(iii)(II) Asylees.— No period of time in which an alien has a bona fide application for asylum pending under section 208 shall be taken into account in determining the period of unlawful presence in the United States under clause (i) unless the alien during such period was employed without authorization in the United States.

The representative’s blatant ideological bias, ignorance and incompetence were exceeded only by her arrogance. While the consular official may have identified valid reasons for refusing to grant the visa, her refusal to view evidence and demeaning verbal commentary suggested a pretext for illegal discrimination. Despite the errors of law, there is no right of appeal.

This latest injury compounds earlier ones from the illegal appointment of Senator Judd Gregg’s pal who heard Junior’s asylum case to the Federal government’s refusal to recognize Massachusetts marriage laws. These are not simply red tape and bureaucracy, but rather the evils of extremist right wing/Bush ideology. As such:

  • We will no longer beg for justice; we will demand it.
  • We will no longer wait for the slow wheels of justice to turn; we will forcefully push them.
  • We will no longer demonstrate restraint; we will vehemently pursue the righteousness of our cause.

For each day and each dollar we have lost, we seek reparations. The damage toll continues to rise. In concrete terms, these are the remedies we seek:

  1. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey and/or his successor must modify or overrule the tainted decisions set down by the incompetent and illegally appointed judge and the politically motivated Board of Immigration Appeals.
  2. Junior’s asylum case must be reopened based on new evidence from the Department of Justice scandal, misapplication of the international Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act [240(b)(4)(B)] and the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution.
  3. Massachusetts’ top constitutional officers must officially engage the Federal government in defense of the Commonwealth’s marriage laws. We are proud of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but we require the state’s assistance.
  4. Administrative Misconduct charges must be pursued against Mary Kelley, Assistant Chief Counsel, DHS, ICE; consular representatives and other federal employees with the goal of removing these extremist ideologues.
  5. Congress must pass the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), reform immigration laws with special provisions for those who have been victims of past U.S. policies and repeal at least the Federal component of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Failure to address the latter will set into motion our vigorous constitutional challenge.
  6. The U.S. must accept Article 22 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, recognizing the competence of the United Nations committee to hear individual complaints.
  7. The Senate Select Committee on Ethics must act against Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH). The July 28, 2008 U.S. Department of Justice report, “An Investigation of Allegations of Politicized Hiring by Monica Goodling and Other Staff in the Office of the Attorney General,” implicates Gregg in unethical and illegal dealings connected with the appointment of immigration Judge Francis L. Cramer.

We reserve the right to pursue additional remedies at a time and in a manner of our choosing. We ask for your continued support and understanding of the increasingly hard line stance we have been forced to assume.

Tim Coco


Architect of Hate Karl Rove,
White House political advisor, secretly helped
an unqualified candidate become an immigration judge.

Et tu, Rove?

September 2, 2008
By Tim Coco

Editor’s Update: While ABC Television has implicated Karl Rove in the appointment of Francis L. Cramer as an immigration judge (see below), I now believe ABC confused two similar candidates. In fairness, it appears from independent research, Rove helped win the appointment of another immigration judge who, like Cramer, was a failed nominee for a tax court appointment. It appears N.H. Senator Judd Gregg played the largest role in winning an illegal appointment for Cramer. Nevertheless, Rove’s involvement in any of the appointments still points to a deeply flawed and illegal process.

It was worse than even we thought.

More than a year ago I began my crusade to bring Junior home. At the time, I learned immigration Judge Francis L. Cramer, who decided Junior’s asylum case, was not only a political appointment but also completely unqualified and unprepared for the job. Cramer, of southern New Hampshire, was one of many illegal hires during the Department of Justice scandal. His seemingly only qualification was that he was a pal of stalwart Republican Senator Judd Gregg. Cramer lost an earlier bid for another judgeship when the appointment came under fire from the American Bar Association.

When the scheme to appoint Cramer unraveled, we now know, crafty Cramer had an ace up his sleeve (these guys never play fair). He turned again to Gregg who, in the words of the recent Department of Justice Investigation, was “pushing” for Cramer’s appointment. Meanwhile, another candidate, Glen L. Bower, turned to his boyhood friend Karl Rove for secret assistance. Besides being undoubtedly one of the two loneliest boys on the playground, Rove was the infamous ringleader in the conspiracy to expose the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, among other nefarious dealings.

Until now, I thought my barrage of press releases and telephone calls to the media on this subject had little effect. The media, however, has been digging and they have struck oil—the stinky and slippery variety.
White House Took Steps to Ensure Anti-Gay Bias in Judge Picks

Last week, the New York Times (“Vetted Judges More Likely to Reject Asylum Bids”) revealed the White House went to great lengths to make sure judges were not sympathetic to gays, among other groups. “Immigrants seeking asylum in the United States have been disproportionately rejected by judges whom the Bush administration chose using a conservative political litmus test …Together, these 16 judges handled 5,031 cases and had a combined denial rate of 66.3 percent — 6.6 percentage points greater than their collective peers. This translates into an extra 157 asylum cases that resulted in denial,” the newspaper reported. Unfortunately, no studies have been conducted to determine the percentage of denials when gays were the hopeful asylees.

ABC reported (“Politically Connected Immigration Judges Unlikely to Face Consequences; DOJ Officials May Have Committed a Crime in Appointing Them”) at the end of July, “There was little in Cramer’s background as a New Hampshire-based commercial and personal injury lawyer that exposed him to immigration law. But Cramer had something better: political connections. He’d worked for Republican Sen. Judd Gregg and most importantly, the (internal Justice Department) report found, he was childhood friends with Rove, one of President Bush’s closest advisors.

In its editorial this past Sunday (“An end to tainted judges”) The Boston Globe reported, “the judges chosen with a partisan filter are significantly more likely to reject immigrants’ bids for asylum. Ridding the immigration courts of this political bias should be a priority of Attorney General Michael Mukasey.” The editorial quoted Mukasey as promising a “swift and unambiguous response” if any immigration judges are found to be deciding cases “based on politics.”

Some lawyers say Cramer, who has rejected nearly 70 percent of the 143 asylum cases he has heard, has finally figured out what to do and shows promise. However, when he heard Junior’s case early in his new career, he was ignorant, or pretended to be, of a longstanding legal precedent and internationally accepted standard that decided gays “constitute a particular social group” for the purpose of determining eligibility for asylum. Cramer otherwise found Genesio’s testimony to be “credible” and his fear of Brazil “genuine.” These determinations, along with other third-party evidence of serious human rights abuses, were enough to grant Junior’s petition. Since the White House screened out anyone thought to be sympathetic to gays, it seems likely Junior was a victim of hate-motivated bias.

Since Mukasey promises a “swift and unambiguous response” to politically motivated decisions by immigration judges, I call on him to use his authority under 1003.1 8 CFR Ch. V to modify or overrule Cramer’s decision and that of the Board of Immigration Appeals.

Meanwhile, our “nuclear war strategy,” a federal court challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), is taking shape.


Washington Post Ad

April 29, 2008

Tomorrow, April 30, an advertisement will appear on the inside back page of the Washington Post's Express newspaper, asking President Bush and Congress to "Make This Right!"  It is a direct appeal to our leaders to use existing authority to issue Junior a visa to return home.  The press release, "National Ad Campaign Aims to Draw Political Attention to Same-Sex Couple’s Plight" , being sent to hundreds of media outlets, explains the effort.  Many have expected us to quietly accept our fate, but this effort demonstrates we will continue to fight not only for ourselves, but for the thousands of other same-sex couples who are apart or face separation.


In Search of a Solution

March 24, 2008

In two weeks, Junior and I will have been separated eight months thanks to unfair, discriminatory and inhumane policies of the United States of America. We will continue to fight. Each setback makes us even more determined to find a solution not only for our family, but for the many other same-sex couples who are also impacted by such mean-spirited laws.

This week, I will meet with a representative of Congresswoman Niki Tsongas’ Washington, D.C. staff. The congresswoman’s staff has been sympathetic, especially Constituent Services Representative Denise Johnson. However, I will press strongly for Tsongas’ staff to convert that sympathy into concrete action. I realize there are no easy solutions, but remedies are available from “humanitarian parole” to immediate passage of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA).

To date, neither of the Democratic presidential candidates have co-sponsored UAFA even though 12 other senators and 91 representatives have signed on as supporters of the bill. In the Senate, this bill is stuck in the Committee on the Judiciary. Please write to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), chairman, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, member, to move this bill out of committee. Tell them what you know of our story.

United States Senate
Committee on the Judiciary
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy
317 Russell Senate Building
Washington D.C. 20510
(202) 224-4543
(202) 224-2417 (fax)

Other members of the committee are listed here: http://judiciary.senate.gov/members.cfm

In the House, UAFA is stalled in the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law. Write to Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Massachusetts Rep. William Delahunt, member, and urge movement on this bill.

Honorable Zoe Lofgren
102 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-3072

Honorable William D. Delahunt
2454 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-3111

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has acknowledged receipt of our “I-130 Petition for Alien Relative.” This is the same petition used by heterosexual couples to gain legal recognition of their families and obtain visas. We expect this petition to be denied on Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) grounds. It may not be long before we are in Federal Court. This is a “nuclear war” strategy in that there may be no winners. Particularly at risk is the eventual Democratic presidential nominee since national gay marriage issues tend to harm Democratic candidates. That is why we are asking for immediate relief or else this weapon must be armed.

We are considering providing posters and badges for delegates to the national political conventions to carry and wear. The message will be to “Reunite this Family.” This was the headline in the very supportive Boston Globe editorial last August. If you know any delegates to either the Democratic or Republican national conventions who would be willing to carry this message, please let me know.

Positive comments about our plight continue to pour in from local, regional, national and international supporters. Here is an example:

I don’t get it. A Brazillian man comes to this country, learns the language, goes to college, gets married to his partner, and they deport him? Yet we have illegals who are soaking up the wellfare system, living for free, free health insurance, free housing, contributing nothing to this country. Now this poor man has to fight for his spouse to be able to come back to this country? They did everything right. Didn’t try and cheat the system — hmm, maybe that was their mistake, had he come here illegally, he’d still be here. I really hope that someone steps up for this couple and allows that man back into this country. He is the one that should be here, not the ones cheating the system!

Sound Off, Eagle-Tribune

Thank you for your kind words and support!

Tim Coco


Alone in the Fight for Basic Fairness?

February 18, 2008

Here is the long delayed update to the story of my separation from Junior as a result of actions taken by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Please pardon the length of this update.

First, some background. Junior was never an “illegal alien.” Six years ago this year, Junior filed a petition for asylum with what was then the U.S. Immigration and Nationalization Service (INS). He made this filing before the end of the six-month stay authorized by his visa, thus keeping him “in status” in the eyes of immigration law. There are many reasons (too painful to detail here) why the asylum application should have been granted.

As the law allows, Junior received his Social Security number and work authorization while his case made its way through the system. As the Department of Homeland Security was formed and Bush made ideological appointments, the government grew increasingly unfriendly to our cause. Even the U.S. State Department changed its longstanding position on a key issue bolstering the asylum petition.

Finally, during the Justice Department hiring scandal, a conservative ideologue was appointed to hear Junior’s case. As the Washington Post reported June 11, last year:

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.”

Judge Cramer denied the asylum application and his decision was upheld 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 last August.

In 2002, same sex marriage was not yet legal in Massachusetts and any possible legal remedy related to marriage was not available to us. Junior and I married March 3, 2005 as his asylum case continued to move through the system. Despite the marriage, many maintain the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into law by President Bill Clinton, prohibits me from sponsoring Junior as a permanent resident even though heterosexuals may do so.

Since last year, we have exhausted all other potential remedies available to us to compel the U.S. government to enable Junior to return. We did not intend to be “activists” and would have been quite content to accept a “quiet” solution.

As such, we have decided, after lengthy research and deliberation, to move ahead with a head-on challenge to DOMA. We are filing an “I-130 Petition for Alien Relative.” This is the same method used by heterosexuals to sponsor their spouses. We expect this petition to be denied on DOMA grounds and are prepared to appeal to the Federal courts. As far as we know, this will be the first constitutional challenge to DOMA. It could be in the courts before this fall’s presidential election.

Many have urged us not to move ahead with this case because 1) it may harm the chances of the Democratic candidate for president and 2) the Supreme Court’s shift to the extreme right of the political spectrum likely means an adverse ruling for everyone.

It is not our intent to harm Democrats, but we have given party members in Congress ample opportunity to find an alternate solution. In fact, they still have an opportunity to resolve the problem any time between now and the time of our court filing. We will happily withdraw our petition immediately if they act – and there are alternative remedies available if politicians truly want to avoid this showdown. Further, because Supreme Court justices are appointed for life terms, we would have to wait decades for a more amenable court to be seated. Such a wait is too much to ask.

Washington University legal scholar Steven Legomsky told me in an e-mail:

…defeat in the Supreme Court is not 100% certain. They’ve surprised me in the past and could very well do so again. The Court could, if it wished, interpret what is left of the plenary power doctrine as nothing more than a rationality test, and conclude that Congress’s distinction between opposite-sex and same-sex marriages is simply irrational.

I also sadly report that the allies we expected – GLAD, ACLU, HRC and others – have not stepped up to the plate. I was told privately that one group, and possibly others, has made accommodation with lawmakers on DOMA to avert an anti same sex marriage constitutional Amendment. While perhaps well-intentioned, this is a dangerous, self-loathing strategy.

Junior just completed his first video and uploaded it to You Tube. It is the story of our separation, ostensibly told by our dog, Q-Tip. I was very moved by it. Please take a look at it if you have a moment.


Thank you for your kind support over these very many difficult months.

Tim Coco