UPDATE: A stay of deportation was granted at the last minute, according to the couple’s lawyer Lavi Soloway, who reached out to GPhilly today.
For many couples, Valentine’s Day is about showing the love. But for Anton Tunumihardja, it could mean having to leave his partner Brian Andersen. Even though Tanumihardja, a 42-year-old gay man from Indonesia, has been living and working in Philadelphia for almost a decade, his most recent application for asylum has been denied ever since his visa expired several years ago, according to a report from Newsworks. He’s now considered an illegal immigrant.
Today, the couple is seeking a reprieve that would allow Tanumihardja – an employee at the popular Conventry Deli in Center City – to stay in the United States and avoid deportation. The concern is that in his native Indonesia, homosexuality is considered criminal. Many of his gay friends have been abused for being gay. In the Newsworks article, he recalled friends being beaten when a private party was broken up by police. Tanumihardja is also Chinese and Catholic – potential catalysts for violence in a country dominated by Muslim extremists.
Newsworks reports that if the men were in a heterosexual relationship with the opportunity to marry legally, Tunumihardja would be able to avoid deportation and stay in this country. But because they are in a same-sex relationship in a city and state that does not recognize gay unions, his immigration status is in danger. In fact, even if the couple married in a state that allows same-sex marriage – like Massachusetts – the federal Defense of Marriage Act would mean Tanumihardja would still face deportation.
A website has been set up to rally for the couple’s late-breaking, last-minute reprieve. Information is also available about how to contact government officials on his behalf. Congressman Bob Brady has already reached out to officials in the State Department in support of Tanumihardja’s request for asylum. And the couple shared their personal story in a new video: