Bradford Wells and Anthony John Makk, a bi-national same-sex couple who are married and have spent most of their 19-year relationship in the San Francisco’s Castro district, have won a two year reprieve against the threat of deportation.
“We’re still dizzy from the news,” said Makk, 49. “We are elated.”
“I’m relieved, really excited and relieved,” said Wells, 56. “I am so grateful I don’t have to worry about Anthony being taken out of the country.”
The couple’s plight, first covered by The Chronicle in June, triggered international media attention.
On Wednesday, the Department of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a letter to Makk saying he has been granted “deferred action” on his case for two years. The agency said the stay is “an exercise of prosecutorial discretion” that allows the agency not to pursue deportation for a specific period.
This comes after a concentrated public outcry and a political effort from Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and state Sen. Mark Leno, who helped the couple pursue all legal avenues to ensure that Makk, an Australian citizen, may stay in the U.S. and continue being the primary carer for his partner Wells who suffers from AIDS-related illnesses.
Makk was denied consideration for a green card because under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) his marriage to Wells is not recognized by the federal government.
Despite DOMA, Makk met the other conditions for residency and thus, according to immigration guidelines issued last year, his case could be deferred so that other priority deportation cases could be heard. These criteria include family ties, lack of criminal record and a prolonged period of legal residence. Makk’s status as Wells’ primary care giver was also taken into consideration.
It has been reported that it was in fact Nancy Pelosi herself who broke the news to the couple, whereby she also issued a statement saying this was a “personal victory” for the couple and that she would continue to fight for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.
As mentioned above, this is not a permanent fix for the couple but the reprieve will hopefully allow them more time to explore their legal options while the fight to repeal DOMA and the denial of federal recognition continues.