You may be aware of the unenviable position that Bradford Wells and Anthony John Makk, a same-sex couple who live in San Francisco, find themselves in.
Wells and Makk have lived together 19 years. Seven years ago, they wed in Massachussetts, where same-sex marriages are legal. Makk is the primary caregiver for Wells, who has AIDS. He is also, however, a citizen of Australia, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will not grant him permanent residency as the spouse of a U.S. citizen, because the Defense of Marriage Act specifically prohibits such federal benefits to same-sex couples. Earlier this year, the Obama administration said it would stop defending the law in court, but it is still currently the law of the land.
In July, ICE ordered Makk to leave the country by August 25. But the couple has appealed the decision, which has bought them some extra time, and last week the Obama administration announced that it is de-emphasizing "low-priority" deportation cases that meet certain criteria, some of which Makk and Wells meet. On Monday, a San Francisco judge, at the request of immigration officials, closed a deportation case against a Venezuelan who had overstayed his visa but had married an American citizen.
On Monday, KQED's Mina Kim talked to Bradford Wells about his situation. An edited transcript follows the audio below.
Interview with Bradford Wells Part 1
What's your current status?
My married husband and I filed for a spousal visa and it was denied up front using the Defense of Marriage Act, which says the federal government does not recognize any marriage between two people of the same sex and any such marriage is not eligible for any federal benefits whatsoever.
What is supposed to happen August 25?
On that date, either Anthony must leave the country or we have to have an appeal filed. My lawyer is working on the appeal right now. We'll have it filed by the deadline.
What would it mean to you if Anthony was forced to leave the country?
I'd be devastated. I don’t know what I would do but I know I would not be able to take care of everything myself. I depend on him for my day to day living. I just can't see going on with him not here. I don't know how I'd manage. I have some pretty significant health issues and he's my primary caregiver. He assists me with taking medications, he assists me with things I can't do. Some mornings I'm in so much pain I can't get out of bed without his help. He gets medication for me when I can't go get them. He helps me with medication I have to inject; I find it very difficult to that myself.
Every time a helicopter goes overhead I cringe. I know he's not under an order of deportation right now, but we are two people who have spent the last 19 years working diligently to make sure he was here legally the whole time. We've spent countless hours and significant resources making sure he obeyed the law. He's never once violated his visa. We're hoping for some sort of interjection by the government, that the government steps in and does something.
And the change only applies to folks who are in deportation proceedings currently, right?
Yes, we're not in deportation proceedings currently, and I'm afraid of that.
Interview With Bradford Wells Part 2
Does the policy shift give you more hope for your appeal?
It gives some hope that if we make it to the very end of our rope, that if they're ready to order Anthony's deportation, there might be some action to stop it.
But as the date draws close and closer I'm under more stress. We're approaching this deadline he needs to file by, it's just like waiting for the other shoe to drop. At some point, they're going to grab him and take him away and I'm going to be left here unable to take care of myself. I have my good days and bad days; today is one of those bad days I'm just really torn over the situation.
Interview With Bradford Wells Part 3
On getting married
Marrying Anthony was the happiest day of my life. You think it's just a piece of paper and a few words, but when you're standing there and you're saying the words, I realize it's something very different. I put my marriage before myself now. That's something that's new to me, to put a relationship before my own needs and wants. It just made me feel that I had a cause more important than myself. I had my family, I had my marriage.