(CN) – A Cambodian woman qualifies as an “immediate relative” of the U.S. citizen she married, even though her husband died of a stroke before immigration authorities had adjusted her status, the 1st Circuit ruled.
Neang Chea Taing came to the United States for pleasure in June 2004 on a non-immigrant visa. That same year, she met and married Tecumsen Chip Taing, a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Tecumsen filed a petition to have his wife classified as an immediate relative for immigration purposes. Neang also requested work authorization and an adjustment of status.
While the couple was living in Massachusetts, Tecumsen died of a stroke. About a year later, the government charged Neang with overstaying her visa.
She asked the district court to direct immigration officials to process her late husband’s petition and to classify her as an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen.
The district court sided with Taing, prompting an appeal from the government. In the government’s view, Taing did not classify as an immediate relative, and if the court disagreed with its interpretation, the law should be deemed ambiguous.
The Boston-based federal appeals court rejected these claims.
“The meaning of the statute is unambiguous and Mrs. Taing qualifies as an ‘immediate relative’ under the statute,” Judge Torruella wrote.
“Although we rest our holding on entirely legal grounds, we note that our decision comports with common sense,” the judge added. “We do not believe that Congress intended for the speed at which immigration authorities attend to a pending application to be dispositive in determining when a surviving spouse like Mrs. Taing, who has diligently followed the rules, can qualify as an ‘immediate relative.’ We recognize that given the volume of cases, it may take many months for the immigration authorities to consider a pending application; however, this fact is outside an applicant’s control and should not be used to penalize her.”