A Heartbreaking Green Card Story: Also a Reflection on Laws and Legal
“The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the
first and only object of good government.” – Thomas Jefferson
Law and government are intertwined, and as many of our clients know, in the
area of immigration the government often hinders more than helps. As
attorneys at Liu & Associates, we are continually inspired by our clients
and their unique stories as they pursue immigration. Despite the challenges
of the U.S. immigration system, they make countless contributions to society
and immeasurable sacrifices to be at the forefront of their fields—all
while providing the very best for their families.
One such client whose story we wish to share reminds us not only of the
value of applying specialized legal knowledge to our cases but also that the
care of human life and happiness is the first and only object of good legal
A recent Ph.D. graduate, one of our clients who desired to remain in the
United States aptly filed a National Interest Waiver petition, which was
approved without issue. After marrying, he and his wife had a baby a few
years later. They purchased a home, established their careers, and raised
their daughter—on their way to the American dream. When the Visa Bulletin
became current, they filed their I-485 applications, and when the Visa
Bulletin retrogressed, we waited for it to become current again. Their story
is the story of so many clients.
The similarities, however, ended with an unexpected diagnosis.
We still remember the phone call we received a week before Christmas one
year ago. Our client’s wife told us that her husband had terminal cancer.
Doctors at one of the best cancer institutes in the world had given up. Our
clients were making one last effort to return to their home country to see
if doctors there could provide any hope and, if not, for him to see his
motherland one last time. His wife asked what this would mean for their
pending I-485 applications if their prayers could not be answered.
We told her not to give up hope, that they should concentrate on getting him
well, and we would find a way to get the application approved.
Sadly, when she returned a little more than a month later, we learned that
her husband had been laid to rest in his home country. Now what? She was
scared and uncertain. Her future and her daughter’s future were dependent
upon her husband’s approved NIW I-140 petition and his pending I-485
applications because he was the principal applicant. Now that he was gone,
would she have to forgo her career in the United States, give up everything
they had planned together, and uproot her daughter because of government
No, there is hope, we insisted.
A little known section of the Immigration and Nationality Act passed in 2009
—INA § 204(l)—would allow her—the surviving spouse and derivative
beneficiary of the approved I-140 petition and pending I-485 application—to
remain in the United States and would allow the USCIS to continue
processing her I-485 application and to approve the case.
Prior to the passage of this law, spouses faced the “widow penalty,” where
the pending petition or application would be denied automatically if the U.
S. citizen petitioner died before the case was adjudicated. Congress passed
the new law to provide a more humane solution for families that had suffered
the ultimate loss and extended the benefits to surviving relatives of
lawful permanent residents, beneficiaries of employment-based immigrant
petitions, and other types of cases. Our client would benefit from this
We submitted the Section 204(l) request to the USCIS. A few months later,
the USCIS acknowledged withdrawal of her husband’s I-485 application. When
the priority date for the I-485 application became current again, we sent a
reminder to the USCIS to process her case. On the fourth day of the Lunar
New Year, the USCIS approved her I-485 application. She received her green
card last week.
The joy that she expressed in her email to us warmed our hearts. We were
similarly elated with the approval. This case and her story reminded us that
, as attorneys, we do not merely process letters, documents, and petitions
for our clients; rather, we also have the capability to provide hope and
confidence through one of the most important processes in their lives.
Lawful permanent resident status gives people a sense of security for a more
certain future; it opens the doors to limitless opportunities; and it
allows them to realize the American dream.
Beyond the paperwork, there must be a human touch. The care and happiness of
our clients is and should always be the first and only object of our work.
刘宗坤律师（Z. Zac Liu, Esq.）, 法学博士（J.D., Valparaiso University School
of Law）、哲学博士(Ph.D., Peking University)，伊利诺伊州最高法院及联邦法院
执照，曾担任Valparaiso University Law Review的编辑和审稿人， 著有中英文书籍
Kellie Pai律师，法学博士(J.D.，University of Houston Law Center)、文学学士(B
.A., University of Texas at Austin)，德克萨斯州最高法院执照，联邦法院执照，
Christina T. Le 律师，法学博士(J.D.，University of Houston Law Center)、文学
学士(B.A., Northwestern University)，德克萨斯州最高法院执照，联邦法院执照，
曾任U.S. Department of Justice驻Houston移民法庭Attorney Advisor，现任刘宗坤
Sabrina Schroeder律师，法学博士 (J.D., Michigan State University College of
Law)、文学学士 (B.A., Oklahoma State University)，密西根州最高法院执照，曾任
Michigan State University Law Review编辑，密西根上诉法院Prehearing Research
Karen Egonis 律师，法学博士(J.D.，University of Houston Law Center)、文学硕
士 (M.A., University of South Carolina)、文学学士(B.A., Texas A&M University
Margaret Tung 律师，法学博士、工商管理硕士(J.D. & M.B.A.，Texas Tech
University)、文学学士(B.A., Rice University)，德克萨斯州最高法院执照，曾任
Texas Tech University Law Review编辑，现任刘宗坤律师事务所专业移民律师。
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