Spouses Deported Under “Widow Penalty” Allowed Back in US

Two women whose green card applications were nullified after the death of their American husbands have recently been admitted to the US, according to The Associated Press.

Both Olga Ledezma, a Mexican, and Miwa Neal, who is Japanese, were trapped by the so-called “widow penalty” after their husbands died less than two years after their marriages. The penalty, which the AP reports was eliminated by Congress two years ago, prevented any widow or widower married to a US citizen for less than two years to file a petition for permanent residency.

After years of legal problems, Ledezma – who was widowed after her husband was hit by a car in Colorado – and Neal were finally able to settle in the US and restart the naturalization process. The media outlet reports that any widow or widowers penalized under the former law can now file a petition for residency by October 28 if their spouse died while the policy was still in effect.

“I just wanted to do what my husband dreamed about,” said Neal, whose husband Joey Neal was found dead in the Ohio river in 2006. “He really wanted to raise his son in America, close to his parents.”

The widow penalty ended through an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill, according to the non-profit Surviving Spouses Against Deportation. The amendment was signed into law by President Barack Obama in October 2009.