June 11, 2009

Menendez, Gillibrand Introduce Legislation to Build Upon New Immigration Rules for Widows and Orphans

Senators Applaud This Week’s Administration Action as a First Step, Say that Legislation is Needed to Allow All Orphans, Widows and Widowers of Citizens and Legal Immigrants to Continue in the Family Immigration System

Washington, D.C. - Following the Department of Homeland Security's announcement of new immigration rules for widows, widowers and minor children of deceased US citizens, US Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) today introduced legislation that would build upon those rules. This week, the administration announced that widows and widowers of US citizens and their children under the age of 18 who are living in the US will be granted temporary deferred action for two years. DHS also announced that legislation is needed to address this issue permanently.

Menendez and Gillibrand praised the rules as a first step but agree that legislation is needed to go further and provide a long-term solution. Their legislation would allow widows, widowers and orphans of sponsoring US citizens, refugees and other legal immigrants to continue their applications through the legal immigration system despite the death of their sponsoring relative. Their bill offers a lasting solution for these legal immigrants impacted by the death of a loved one.

Senator Menendez said: "The Obama administration showed compassion for legal immigrant families this week with its action. Secretary Napolitano has recognized the importance of family as a basis for our immigration system and avoided unfair punishment of those legally waiting in line who have suffered the death of a loved one. However, that was just a first step in the right direction. Our legislation is needed to give these widows, widowers and orphans continued access to our legal family immigration system. These families call the United States home and have done nothing wrong to be kicked out of line - they are only in jeopardy because of the death of a loved one. This reality is reflected in our legislation, and it is important to ensure that it is included in comprehensive immigration reform legislation that we hope will be considered later this year."

"I applaud the Obama Administration for taking an important first step to help families that have lost loved ones, but Congress must act in order to ensure a lasting solution for widows, widowers, and orphans as well," Senator Gillibrand said.  "I am hopeful that in the weeks and months ahead, we can take action on this legislation and make additional progress to protect families being torn apart by our immigration system.  This is an important part of our efforts to reform America's family-based immigration system to reunite loved ones, promote family stability and foster the economic growth that immigrant families have provided throughout our history."