Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Robinson: 2-1 Ruling That Widows Are Not Immediate Relatives If Married Less Than Two Years

Robinson v. Napolitano
No. 07-2977
February 2, 2009

[A full blog posting to come later]

Judges Sloviter and Fuentes voted against Ms. Robinson while Judge Nygaard dissented and voted for Ms. Robinson. The Third Circuit overturned district judge Stanley R. Chesler.

In a case followed by widows and widowers around the country, along with receiving coverage in the New York Times on the day of the decision, the Third Circuit ruled in a 2-1 split decision to overturn the district court judge's conclusion that widows and widowers whose United States citizen spouses died less than two years after they married cannot continue to be considered immediate relatives, even though there was a pending application for legal permanent residence.

According to news reports and press releases, the lawyer for Ms. Robinson, Jeffrey A. Feinbloom, plans to file a motion for the case to be reheard en banc, which means a rehearing with all 21 judges of the Third Circuit.

In other out-of-court developments, the new DHS Secretary issued a directive that placed a priority on examining ways that the current immigrant laws penalize widows and widowers of United States citizen, a sign that provides hope that DHS might try to find a way to provide protection for widows and widowers.

The dispute turns on whether the immigration statute blocks the way for widows and widowers who were married less than two years. The majority focused on language that suggests widows and widowers may only continue if they were married at least two years. Ms. Robinson's lawyer, however, argues that the only mention of the two-year requirement is limited to people who had not yet filed the application for legal permanent residence before the spouse died.

More analysis of this later -- I'll update this blog posting.

New York Times coverage:

Pro-immigrant descriptions from Surviving Spouses Against Deportation:


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