U.S. Temporarily Suspends Policy of Deporting Widows of Citizens

June 10, 2009
By MIRIAM JORDAN – The Wall Street Journal

The Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday it is temporarily freezing a policy of deporting widows and widowers of U.S. citizens, a sign of the Obama administration’s interest in new approaches to immigration.

Only a few hundred people were at risk of deportation under the policy, but critics viewed it as one of the most painful consequences of President George W. Bush’s immigration crackdown.

Under the current interpretation of federal law, some immigrants whose American spouses had died faced possible deportation because their legal status was in limbo. The rule applied to immigrants who had been married for less than two years or whose green-card process hadn’t been completed when their spouses died. The clause, known as the “widow penalty,” had resulted in a spate of lawsuits.

On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that her agency was freezing any action against such widows and widowers for two years. “Smart immigration policy balances strong enforcement practices with common-sense, practical solutions to complicated issues,” Ms. Napolitano said.

A Department of Homeland Security statement said U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that oversees immigrant petitions, would give favorable consideration to requests for reinstatement of cases that previously had been revoked under the law.

Ms. Napolitano’s directive offers relief, if only temporary, to some 200 widows and widowers. However, it suggests the Obama administration could be testing a softer approach to other contentious aspects of immigration policy.

“It’s a good sign, and it hedges Obama’s bets: If comprehensive [immigration] reform advances, this will help pave the way. If not, at least he can say he tried,” said Dan Kowalski, an Austin, Texas, immigration attorney and editor of Bender’s Immigration Bulletin.

To read more of this article:  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124460396702601095.html

For more info on this policy:   http://www.dhs.gov/ynews/releases/pr_1244578412501.shtm