End the U.S. Immigration Widow's Penalty

Tuesday, November 25, 2008 at 08:48 AM

Absent Second Life, I would not know Eshi Otawara. But here I am, using the immersive virtual world that bundles all our Web 2.0 tools. While Second Life doesn't exactly allow me to see the world, certainly I get to know people -- and there endlessly interesting internal landscapes -- from around the planet. Which is how I come to know Eshi. Eshi would rather be known as an artist than one of too many casualties of the cruel, absurd and antiquated U.S. immigration policy known as the "widow's penalty." Increasingly, though, she is known as both. Friends and admirers of her wide range of graphic art (costumes, artifacts and temporary installations) are rallying 'round.

Earlier this week, Harper Beresford, noted Second Life graphic and performance artist as well as blogger, passed me a message about a 60 Minutes program that aired Sunday, titled "For Better or Worse," and I said I would do my part to spread the word.

To my friends:

As you know, Eshi Otawara is still pending notification about her status in the US. While recent news has been positive for her, things are not as good for all widows of American citizens.

Brent Renison is a lawyer fighting the Widow Penalty in the US. Eshi contacted Brent a few months ago, and he agreed to help her with her case. Brent is also in contact with our mutual friend, Mike. Mike forwarded this letter to me and asked me to forward it on behalf of Eshi and the other widows who have been unfairly penalized because their American spouses died before they were able to get a fair hearing.

Please join us in assisting Brent and Eshi in this cause. Click through to the website, read about, consider if it is something you support, and contact your legislator.

Thanks for your time.

Harper Beresford

From: Brent Renison
Sent: Wednesday, November 19, 2008 3:30 PM
Subject: 60 Minutes Exposes Widow Penalty - from Brent Renison


I promised to let everyone know when I would appear on CBS 60 Minutes. The time has come. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Bob Simon, the most honored journalist in international reporting, will expose the "Widow Penalty" to the nation this Sunday night, November 23rd on CBS 60 Minutes.

America is deporting widows of American citizens automatically and without appeal when their spouse dies during bureaucratic processing of the green card application.

My sincerest desire is that, after watching the broadcast, Monday morning you will do something about this terrible practice. There are a number of ways you can help to end the widow penalty. The most important is to tell your elected officials that a change must occur in the abysmal way that we treat widows of American citizens. Whether you effect a change in the way the current or future Administration handles the cases, or push through a legislative amendment signed by the President, this practice must stop. Click on the box to find out how you can help.

Please be a part of that change on Monday morning, and please forward this email to just one person whom you trust to do the right thing. Forward to more than one person at a time, and accountability is lost -- people will delete the email, just as you might delete mine.

Brent Renison

Following the breadcrumbs led me to the CBS 60 Minutes site and 60 Minutes on the Widow's Penalty.

Watch CBS Videos Online

Then on to Citizen Orange and this:

Brent Renison, the Oregon attorney who has been working tirelessly to eliminate the nonsensical "widow penalty," appeared recently on NPR's This American Life with Ira Glass. You can check it out here (scroll through to nearly the halfway mark to the start of the segment: "This American Wife").

Meanwhile, the federal class-action lawsuit to extend to the rest of the nation the exemption to the penalty currently only available to people living in the Ninth Circuit continues apace. So far so good for Renison and his diligent co-counsel, Alan Diamante, and the hundreds (possibly thousands) of widows and widowers whose hopes rest with federal litigation and efforts to convince Congress to end this inane and unfair penalty.

Visit the Surviving Spouses Against Deportation (SSAD) website for more information.

We can do something about this. You can help.

This commentary originally appeared on Daily Kos.