Friday, August 31, 2007

Class Action Filed to End "Widow Penalty"

The L.A. Times reports on a new class action:

"Dahianna Heard's husband was fatally shot while working for a private security contractor in Iraq.

Raquel Williams' husband died of sleep apnea and heart problems.

Ana Maria Moncayo-Gigax's husband was killed in a car crash while on duty with the U.S. Border Patrol.

All three women were waiting for their permanent residency, but their U.S. citizen spouses died before the applications were approved. Immigration authorities later denied the cases because the women were no longer married to U.S. citizens.

The three are part of a class-action lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal court in Los Angeles, that seeks to end the `widow penalty' and asks the court to compel immigration authorities to reopen their cases."

The class action is based on a U.S. Court of Appeals of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruling in 2006 that a noncitizen did not automatically lose her eligibility to become a lawful permanent resident because of the death of her spouse.  In a scholarly opinion by Judge Raymond Fisher, a long time law firm partner before being appointed to the federal bench, the Ninth Circuit held that a noncitizen who had filed for adjustment of status remained eligible to become a lawful permanent resident even though her sponsor U.S. citizen husband had died (tragically and unexpectedly in a car accident).  See Freeman v. Gonzales, 444 F.3d 1031 (9th Cir. 2006). For the Ninth Circuit's latest ruling in the case of Freeman case, click here.


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