PORTLAND – The widow of an American citizen must return to her native South Africa because her husband died after less than two years of marriage, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Owen M. Panner ruled that immigration officials had reasonably interpreted that the two-year rule was firm, and Carla Arabella Freeman must leave the country because she and her husband, Robert, hadn’t been married long enough before he died in a 2002 car accident.
Panner ordered immigration officials to wait 30 days before deporting Freeman, allowing the woman’s lawyer time to decide whether to take the case to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The attorney, Brent W. Renison, of Portland, criticized the decision, saying it “is not what a civilized country does.”
Though the two-year rule doesn’t come into play very often, Renison told The Oregonian that immigration attorneys have learned of at least 25 similar cases.
Immigration officials in Georgia, for example, are seeking to deport Olga Bota, a 38-year-old Romanian citizen whose American husband died from stomach cancer in 2000.
Bota has a 4-year-old daughter who is a U.S. citizen, according to Cherie Elizabeth Patronis, the Atlanta attorney representing her.
Rubi Dobrenz, who lives in Mount Vernon, Wash., faces deportation to her native Peru because her husband committed suicide shortly after their marriage in early 2000, said Bart Stroupe, her Seattle attorney.
Renison said he is not aware of any federal court that has sided against immigration officials in such cases. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., co-sponsored a bill passed by Congress in 2000 that allowed Suchada Kwong, a native of Thailand, to become a permanent U.S. resident.
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