What Fierce Advocacy Looks Like: “I want to be with my family, in my country”
Current TV/Countdown‘s guest host David Shuster interviewed Bradford Wells and Anthony John Makk on Wednesday to discuss their immigration situation.
Shuster: The Obama Administration, which refuses to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, is now using that to split a gay couple apart. After seven years of marriage, Bradford Wells and Anthony John Makk may be forced to separate as soon as August the 25th. Our number one story on the Countdown: Wells, an American citizen, has AIDS. Makk, an Australian, is Wells’ husband and primary caregiver. Both live in San Francisco. And, while Makk has crossed the US border for years on legal visas, the US government recently told him he is no longer eligible to do that because the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, denies all federal benefits, including immigration benefits, to same-sex couples. Makk was also told he was not eligible to stay as Wells’ spouse, his application for permanent residency denied because of DOMA. And, by the way, the couple was married in Massachusetts. The couple has sought the help of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, their representative in Congress, and Immigration Equality, a gay rights group, has said they will take this particular case to the White House. Steve Ralls, a spokesman for the group, told Countdown:
“I would think the White House would get political points. Do you want a dying American to be here with his caregiver or not?”
Shuster: Joining us from San Francisco tonight are Bradford Wells and Anthony John Makk, and gentlemen, thanks for joining us this evening.
Wells/Makk: Thank you.
Shuster: Let’s start with you, Bradford. You’ve had HIV, you’ve said, since the 1980s. Doctors first sent you for psychological treatment before medical science knew much about HIV and AIDS. Tell us, how are you feeling and what’s your prognosis?
Wells: My prognosis is the same as everybody else’s: nobody lives forever. But I have a reason to live… and,um, he keeps me here.
Shuster: And John Makk, you seem to be between a rock and a hard place. If ordered to leave, would you comply? And leave your sick husband behind? Or would you take him with you to Australia? Or would you remain here in defiance of the deportation order?
Makk: Currently, we don’t look at staying here illegally. That is something we’ve strived for all these years, for the nineteen years we’ve been together. We’ve always kept a legal status, and it’s been very important to do so. We’ve always thought some chance of immigration would come to us and we didn’t want to ruin it with illegal staying here in this country. We still hope that someone will step up and talk — and speak up for our cause: one of our senators and, like you said, Nancy Pelosi, and her office is actively working for us. So, this is somewhere — I don’t want to stay here illegally. And we have talked about many different options.
Shuster: What have you heard — or have you heard anything — from anybody higher up in the Administration? I know you’ve started to get a lot of attention for this case, as you should. Is that having any impact, and what are people in the government telling you about this?
Makk: The government is not really coming across and telling us too much of anything at this stage. Nancy Pelosi’s office is working with us, Immigration Equality is working very hard, tirelessly, on our behalf. It’s a difficult situation, but we have nothing back from the White House or from anyone higher up in the government.
Shuster: Brad, all couples, gay and straight, deal with tensions in their marriage. I can’t even imagine the pressure this situation puts on the two of you. How are you handling it?
Wells: One day at a time. First thing I say when I get up the morning is “I love you.” The last thing I say when I go to bed is “I love you.” I try to tell him I love him many times during the day. I try to do what I can to appreciate and cherish him.
Makk: We find that the harder we’ve had to fight for our relationship, the stronger it’s gotten.
Wells: We’ve had to fight for our relationship the whole nineteen years.
Makk: Yes, nineteen years, dealing with this same issue, but currently we’ve come up where we have no more options. The visas that I’ve been under, they are not available to me currently. I’ve used up all those options, basically, and this is the last one we have.
Shuster: How confident are you that Nancy Pelosi will be able to solve this, that you’ll be able to get an exemption or somebody to step in, to say: OK, this is crazy?
Makk: I am more confident than Brad, but I am the more optimistic one. And I just think that people will see that it’s not right. It’s not right. It’s discriminatory, and it’s totally unfair that we have to uproot our entire lives and everything we’ve worked for for nineteen years, just because we’re a same-sex couple.
Shuster: Brad, as someone who’s born in this country, as an American, it must be so perplexing to you. It must go against everything you were taught growing up in this country.
Wells: I love my country. I love being an American. I don’t want to be pushed out because I’m married. I don’t want this to be a decision between my country and my family. I want both. I want to be with my family, in my country.