July/August 2014

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Lifestyle 9 What's Trending 9 Inter Alia 9 Get Connected 9 Member Advantage 9 Contact Us sponsor: about us: 10 Practice Pointers w Immigration & Crimes w Immigration & Health care w going global w business immigration u behind the case CASE: Williams v. Sec'y, Dep't Homeland Sec., No. 13-11270 (11th Cir., Jan. 17, 2014) ATTORNEY: Brent Renison, et al. by Sheeba Raj T hanks to strenuous advocacy by aorneys, legislators, and families, hundreds of immigrant widow(er)s dealing with the loss of their spouses wouldn't have to contend with the denial of their green-card applications simply because they weren't adjudicated before the death of the spouse. e widow penalty, as it is known, was abolished in 2009 when Congress amended INA §201(b)(2)(A)(i) to eliminate the requirement that self-petitioning widows of U.S. citizens be married at least two years at the time of the death. In 2004, Brent Renison, of Parrilli Renison LLC in Portland, OR, and other aorneys around the country started representing members of this group. "[O]ne of the key challenges was trying to get everybody talking to each other, sharing ideas and information, and collaborating on litigation and also on advocacy to try to get the law changed," Renison explained. "We started using a list serve to help coordinate our litigation efforts to try to go out to different circuits and challenge the widow penalty." Raquel Pascoal Williams, a Brazilian native, was one of Renison's clients whose application was ultimately denied because of the "widow penalty." She had married Derek Williams on January 11, 2002. He petitioned for her later that year and she filed an application for adjustment of status. But before the petition and application were adjudicated, her husband died of sleep apnea. Just before Congress ended the widow penalty in 2009, Williams remarried, but then divorced. at marriage ended her ability to self- petition as a widow, due to the remarriage bar in INA §201(b)(2)(A)(i). Also in 2009, Congress enacted INA §204(l), which provides that if a petition was filed on an immigrant's behalf before the petitioner's death, then the benefit was to be based on the relationship immediately before death. Renison sought to have Williams's case reopened based on the new INA 204(l), but USCIS opposed it and applied the remarriage bar, even though INA 204(l) contained no remarriage bar. Aer several administrative denials, Renison filed suit in federal district court in May 2012. And nearly three years later, in Williams v. Sec'y, Dep't Homeland Sec., No. 13-11270 (Jan. 17, 2014), the Eleventh Circuit sided with Williams, saying, "e fact that in one simultaneous legislative act within the same bill amendment, one section retained a remarriage bar, and the other section contained no such bar, is clear evidence that Congress did not intend to impose a remarriage bar on cases coming under [INA 204(l)]." In April 2014, Williams finally received her green card. She looks forward to visiting relatives in Brazil with the son she shares with her deceased husband. SHEEBA RAJ is the staff legal editor and reporter for VOICE. Behind the Case: The Widow Penalty Implementation of INA §204(l) Relating to Surviving Family Members + LIBRARY DOWNLOAD i I IMMIGRATION inside anks to recent efforts, many widow(er)s won't be denied green cards just because they weren't adjudicated before their spouses' deaths.

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