SAN DIEGO – Community activist Allan Spyere has been detained by U.S. customs officials after being arrested on a DUI charge last weekend.
Sypere, a Brazilian native who currently serves as the Emperor of the Imperial Court de San Diego, was booked into San Diego County Jail at 3:42 am Sunday, Feb. 5. He was charged with a DUI and then found to be in the United States on an expired J1 student visa, which led him to being detained by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to public records.
Christopher Pfiel, Spyere’s boyfriend, said that Spyere was pulled over for making a lane change without using a turn signal. The officer detained Spyere on suspicion of driving under the influence, which led to the discovery of his immigration status, Pfiel said.
A San Diego Police Department spokeswoman said the arrest was made in the 3000 block of University Ave., which is near the intersection with 30th Street in North Park.
According to Pfiel, Spyere plans to plead not guilty to the DUI charge at a court hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 14.
Spyere, 37, is not eligible for bail because ICE has put an “indefinite hold” on the case, so he remains detained at the Facility 8 Detention Facility, a medium-security jail in Otay Mesa.
Currently, Spyere is legally married to Travis Spackman, although the two are finalizing a divorce, according to Pfeil. Spyere and Spackman were married in 2008 during the brief window of time that same-sex marriage was legal in California.
Because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that discriminates against gay and lesbian couples who are legally married, Spyere and Spackman’s marriage is not recognized on a federal level, thus Spyere is ineligible to apply for citizenship based on his marriage to a U.S. citizen.
In a Facebook post, Spackman asked friends to support Spyere:
"I know Allan and I are separated and finalizing a divorce. He's not a bad person and doesn't deserve to have his home and life taken away. Please contact your representatives and help him out."
Nicole Murray-Ramirez, a leader of the Imperial Court system, wrote a column in LGBT Weekly on Thursday saying that Spyere would be leaving the country.
“It is with a sad heart that I tell you all that community activist, fundraiser and popular personality, Allan Spyere has to return to his native land, Brazil, to take care of some personal matters,” Murray-Ramirez wrote in the weekly paper. “More sadly, Allan will not be able to attend Coronation XL and preside at all this weekend’s events as our reigning emperor de San Diego.”
Murray-Ramirez did not tell readers the full story about why Spyere would likely be returning to Brazil, only making note of Spyere’s many community involvements, including his work with the Imperial Court, the Nicky Awards and the Harvey Milk Foundation.
The Imperial Court de San Diego will celebrate its 40th anniversary this weekend in an event where Spyere had planned to step down after completing his reign, along with Empress Erika Odessa.
San Diego City Councilmember Todd Gloria presented the Imperial Court with a proclamation at Tuesday’s council meeting, declaring Feb. 11, 2012 to be “Imperial Court de San Diego Day” in the City of San Diego. Spyere was unable to attend the ceremony since he was being detained by ICE.
Outside of his numerous community involvements, Spyere wrote a bi-weekly social column in LGBT Weekly called “Allan’s A-List,” where he shared honest tales about the social scene, community events, love and relationships.
In his Feb. 2 column, Spyere explained to readers why it had been a few weeks since he last wrote and shared some of the changes in his life that he was excited about:
“I’ve been going nuts since the New Year. My life, as yours does too (I hope) offers too much to do, but not enough time to do it in. For instance, I am now in the process of moving … yes; I am moving in with my boyfriend! I know what you’re thinking: it might be too soon. Alas, I have two settings – both at the extreme ends of the dial. Either I’m a single slut, or a U-Haul lesbian (but only when I find the right person).”
According to his Facebook page, Spyere works as the promotions manager at Numbers nightclub in Hillcrest, and at one point owned an IT firm in West Hollywood, Calif. He received a master's degree in oceanography from UCSD, and studied pharmacy at UFRJ Universidaded Federal do Rio de Janeiro.
News of Spyere’s detention flooded Facebook on Thursday as his friends, Dr. Hillary Stokes and Dr. Kim Ward, created a four-minute video to encourage community members to speak out in support of Spyere.
“Allan’s been a part of our community and a San Diego resident for many years and right now needs our help,” Stokes says in the video.
Ward asked community members to write a letter or create a video, and speak to Spyere’s character strengths and how he has contributed to the community. Letters and videos will be forwarded to officials who will be reviewing Spyere’s case.
Ward and Stokes also encouraged those who wish to support Spyere, to contact the office of Congresswoman Susan Davis at (619) 280-5353 and ask her to advocate on Spyere’s behalf.
Videos and letters can be e-mailed to Pfeil at email@example.com.
Spyere is third gay San Diegan to face deportation in recent months.
Joseph Bukombe was held for two years at the Otay Mesa federal detention facility and was released in time for Christmas 2011, but still faces deportation to his home country of Uganda. Bukombe is currently working a case for asylum, as he believes returning to Uganda would put his life in danger.
Becley Aigbuza also believes his life would be in danger if he returns home to Benin, Nigeria. He has been in the U.S. since 1994, but will face an immigration judge on Feb. 28, who will decide his fate.