A married, bi-national gay couple from San Francisco has won a two-year stay of deportation for John Makk, an Australian citizen, partner of 19 years and primary caregiver to his husband Bradford Wells, an American who suffers from AIDS-related illnesses.
Their case was first covered by the Chronicle last June and touched a nerve, becoming SFGate’s most widely shared story of the year on Facebook, shared by 75,000 people. Their case received national and international media attention.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a letter to Makk today saying he has been granted “deferred action” on his case for two years. The letter said the action is “an exercise of prosecutorial discretion” that allows the agency not to pursue deportation for a specific period. Makk met multiple conditions of the agency’s new guidelines for immigration agents to prioritize deportation cases, including family ties, status as a primary caregiver, lack of criminal record and his long period of legal residence under a series of visas that eventually expired.
While this is certainly good news for Makk and Wells, it’s only a temporary solution. Unless DOMA, which prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, is repealed, they’ll be back at this fight in two years. And while this sets a certain precedent for how the Justice Department may handle the cases of married bi-national same-sex couples in the future, it’s still an entirely discretionary, stopgap measure. It also does little to help unmarried bi-national same-sex couples who wish to be married (like my friend Jaime and her Australian fiancée, Kirsty, who have been having their own struggle trying to navigate their legal immigration options). DOMA just needs to go. It’s caused too much hurt.