Bradford Wells and Anthony Makk have been together for 19 years and seven years ago they were legally married in Massachusetts. Despite the fact that they have been together for so long, and Makk is the sole caregiver for Wells, who is terminally ill, they are in danger of being forced an ocean apart later this month.
Immigration officials told Makk that he must leave the U.S. and return to Australia by August 25. How can it be possible that a long-time spouse and caregiver of a U.S. citizen can be deported?
Makk attempted to follow all U.S. immigration laws vigilantly, never overstaying any visa by even a day. He came to the U.S. legally, initially on a special trader’s visa for importing glass. Makk and Wells file joint taxes as a married couple. When Makk’s most recent visa expired, he applied for permanent residency in the U.S., as any spouse of a U.S. citizen has the right to do.
The Obama administration rejected Makk’s request for permanent residency. Why? Current federal law under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defines marriage as only a union between a man and woman.
If Makk and Wells were a heterosexual couple, there is no way Makk would be in danger of being deported. Our current immigration law must be changed so that regardless of sexual orientation, any legal spouse of an American citizen cannot be deported unjustly. Families should not be forced to live under the constant threat of separation.
Wells’ failing health adds even more complication to their story. In June, Wells was rushed to the emergency room with symptoms of a heart attack caused by advanced AIDS. Yes, Wells could join Makk in Australia, but he would be forced to leave his doctors and give up his health insurance.
Makk and Wells announced that they will be appealing their Defense of Marriage Act visa denial. Over fifty members of congress have sent letters to Attorney General Eric Holder on Makk’s behalf. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has also recently joined many legislators in urging the Obama administration to reconsider Makk’s case. The Obama Administration has the authority to keep Makk and Wells together – so far, they just refuse to use it. Even if they do not have the legislative power at this time to change DOMA, they can certainly get Makk’s deportation at least temporarily held.
Our immigration system must be reformed to keep all legally married couples together, regardless of sexual orientation.