Lose a Husband, Get Deported

Here’s an area of immigration law that is sorely in need of reform, as reported by the Associated Press:

Foreign-born widows face deportation

SAN FRANCISCO –Jacqueline Coats’ husband drowned after he dove into a fierce Pacific Ocean riptide to rescue two boys. Now the immigrant from Kenya might be forced to leave the United States because he died before filing her residency application.

She is among more than 80 foreign-born widows across the nation who face possible deportation because their husbands died before immigration paperwork was approved. Some attorneys want to challenge the government’s policy of rejecting green card requests if an immigrant’s American spouse dies before the application is processed. At least one lawyer plans to file a class-action lawsuit.

“This is a wrong that definitely has to be righted,” said immigration attorney Ralph Pineda of Orlando, Fla.

A group of California state lawmakers filed a bill in January asking the Legislature to grant Coats legal status, but similar measures for other immigrants have seldom passed.

“It is an outrage and an injustice to the memory of this courageous hero that his wife should suffer the loss of family and livelihood once again,” said Democratic Assembly member Mary Hayashi.

The government has also generally denied applications for permanent residence — so-called “green cards” — for surviving spouses of U.S. citizens if the death occurs during the first two years of marriage. [full text]

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