U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) decided to grant deferred action on the immigration case of Anthony John Makk, an Australian who is married to American Bradford Wells and had been denied a marriage-based green card, according to a news release issued this afternoon by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
The move, Immigration Equality spokesman Steve Ralls says, means "Bradford and Anthony can now rest assured that, for at least the foreseeable future, they will remain here together in the United States."
According to Pelosi's release, she spoke today to Makk and Wells, who live in San Francisco, and informed them of the decision. Following reporting about the case in August, she had intervened seeking action to keep Makk, who potentially faced deportation, in the country.
Pelosi said in a statement, "The positive resolution of Anthony's immigration petition is a personal victory for Bradford and Anthony, and keeps this loving couple together."
Noting the broader implications of their case, she said, "Anthony would have faced deportation because of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, even though he has lived in the United States for more than 20 years, has no criminal history, has never lived here illegally and is the primary caregiver to his husband. The Obama Administration's recent efforts to prioritize immigration enforcement for the removal of criminals and others who pose a threat to national security helped pave the way for today's good news."
The "recent efforts" referenced by Pelosi include changes announced by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in August 2011 aimed at moving prosecutorial discretion exercised by immigration enforcement officials from an "ad hoc" system to a system focused on the "highest priorities" that will "eliminate the lowest priority cases" -- including, a senior administration official said, same-sex couples where one partner is facing deportation.
Although much of the discussion about "prosecutorial discretion" has related to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is responsible for enforcing removal orders, today's decision came from USCIS, which is responsible for, among other duties, processing petitions for marriage-based green cards. Such petitions, when sought by same-sex bi-national couples have been denied, as Pelosi references and had happened to Makk and Wells, because of DOMA's federal definition of marriage. Where, as in Makk's case, no removal proceedings have begun following such a denial, the appropriate entity from which relief can be sought is USCIS.
Ralls, communications director for Immigration Equality, which is representing Wells and Makk in their immigration efforts, told Metro Weekly this evening, "I just got off the phone with Bradford and Anthony and, as you can imagine, they are enormously relieved and incredibly grateful. Thanks in large part to Leader Pelosi's personal interest, and intervention, in their case, Bradford and Anthony can now rest assured that, for at least the foreseeable future, they will remain here together in the United States."
He added a note of caution, saying, "Though this is not a permanent solution, it is a meaningful and significant one that lifts the cloud of uncertainty that has hung over them for so long. They will not be separated, and Bradford will continue to have his caretaker at his side. We all remain committed to continuing to work for a permanent solution for all couples in their situation, but this is, indeed, a hopeful sign that things are changing."
Lavi Soloway, co-founder of Stop the Deportations, told Metro Weekly regarding the news, "Today's good news for Anthony Makk and Bradford Wells means that one more married, gay binational couple can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that their future together will be secure.
Soloway added, "It comes on the heels of decisions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to stop 'DOMA deportations' involving binational couples in three high profile cases in Newark, Manhattan and San Francisco in 2011. As in those cases, the decision today demonstrates that the Obama administration can apply its own discretionary, humanitarian guidelines to keep all LGBT families together by ensuring that no gay or lesbian American is separated from his or her spouse because of the Defense of Marriage Act."
Pelosi, for her part, concluded by talking about DOMA repeal efforts in Congress, saying, "I appreciate the consideration of USCIS in granting this relief to my constituents. I join Anthony and Bradford in celebrating the decision, and will continue to work to repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act."