House minority leader Nancy Pelosi met Wednesday with a married gay binational couple seeking to remain together in the country as advocates continue to push for the rights of LGBT families in an evolving immigration system.
Bradford Wells and Anthony John Makk made headlines in July when immigration officials, citing the Defense of Marriage Act, denied their petition for a marriage-based green card. Makk, an Australian citizen, has been forced to "play the visa tag game back and forth," for 19 years now -- on tourist visas, then business visas up until last year, he said. Immigration Equality has appealed the denial of the couple's petition for Makk's permanent residency in the U.S.
The couple, who live in Pelosi's district, have asked administration officials to put on hold the appeal of their application pending legislative repeal of DOMA or a legal ruling against it, which would allow Makk to remain stateside. They made the same plea Wednesday morning at the U.S. Capitol with the House Democratic leader and members of her staff.
"We've worked so hard over 20 years just to maintain a legal presence in this country," Wells said. "If Anthony leaves, he can't get back in. If something happens with his family, he can't be there for them. Because he's chosen to be here with me."
Of the meeting with Pelosi, Wells said, "She acknowledged and heard what I said. I have no lack of confidence with Nancy Pelosi or her office. She is on top of her district."
Last week Pelosi was one of 69 lawmakers who called on Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Atty. Gen. Eric Holder to include specific guidance on LGBT families in a working group's review of more than 300,000 pending deportation cases nationwide. "The vulnerability of LGBT immigrants -- the historical stigmatization of whom both within and outside the U.S. is well-documented -- makes knowledgeable review a necessity," the group wrote.
Though Makk isn't currently faced with an immediate order to leave the country, the couple joins countless other LGBT couples in DOMA-induced limbo.
On Wednesday, a staffer in the office of Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, one of the leading congressional advocates for LGBT immigration rights, said Lofgren and her House colleagues hope to receive a response from the administration soon regarding lawmakers' request for much-needed clarification.
Speaking last night at an Immigration Equality event, Florida congresswoman and Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz voiced her support for marriage-based green cards for gay binational couples to be held in abeyance.
Wasserman Schultz also slammed yesterday's news that House Republicans had increased a cap on expenses allocated for legal defense of DOMA. "It's colossally insensitive, but it's also outrageous that [House speaker John Boehner] would spend time and resources defending a blatantly unconstitutional law. ... It's just unfathomable to me that they would pursue that path."