San Francisco Gay Binational Couple to Appeal DOMA Visa Denial
|Anthony Makk, left, with husband Bradford Wells in happier times.|
Makk will now appeal the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' marriage visa denial that cited the embattled Defense of Marriage Act. The appeal will save him from having to leave the country or stay here illegally after his visa expires on August 25, but his attorneys do not know how long it will take to decide the appeal. It is also possible that Immigration and Customs Enforcement attorneys will exercise discretion and not start deportation proceedings against Makk.
Meanwhile, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) has urged the Obama administration to reconsider its decision handed down Monday, according to a spokesman for Immigration Equality, the nonprofit representing the couple.
Drew Hammill, Pelosi's spokesman, released the following statement: "Leader Pelosi has formally contacted USCIS on behalf of her constituents and will be working to exhaust all appropriate immigration remedies that are currently open to pursue."
The case of Makk and his husband, Bradford Wells, seems especially cruel-hearted among the already sad tales of gay binational couples. While a marriage visa is still the most common route by which immigrants become citizens of the United States, gay married couples are left out because of DOMA, which reserves federal marriage benefits for straights. Makk is also the 19-year partner, husband, and primary caretaker of Wells, who has AIDS.
Many gay couples have submitted marriage visa petitions over the last year, especially since the Obama administration's assertion earlier this year that it would not defend DOMA in court. Lavi Soloway, an attorney with the Stop the Deportations Project, which advocates on behalf for gay couples, has filed 15 or 16 such marriage visa petitions, most of which have been denied.
Should Makk's appeal be denied, there is still a question of whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will pursue deportation proceedings against him or let him be. ICE has recently shown signs of leniency on same-sex couples in immigration proceedings. In June, ICE director John Morton sent out a memo instructing the agency's attorneys to use their discretion in pursuing deportation cases against people with American citizen spouses.
Soon after, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement decided to throw out the deportation case of a Venezuelan gay man who is married to an American -- the first time ICE has done that, as far as Soloway knows.
Last month, an immigration judge in San Francisco delayed the deportation of another Venezuelan man married to a Californian, giving ICE 60 days to decide whether attorneys want to continue with deportation proceedings.
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