The House Subcommittee on Immigration, under the new leadership of Rep. George Gekas (R-PA), has passed a steady stream of pro-immigrant legislation. One of these bills is H.R. 1892, the Family Sponsor Immigration Act of 2001, which passed unanimously on June 26, 2001.

This bill would allow immigrants to use another sponsor on their affidavit of support if their original U.S. Sponsor dies while they are waiting for a green card. This would allow another family member to stand in for the deceased sponsor and sign the affidavit.

The new legislation is correcting a problem that was created by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRAIRA). Under that law, an applicant for permanent residency must have the affidavit of support signed by the family member who petitioned for him. If the petitioner dies during the process, the Attorney General can allow an immigrant to go forward with their application for humanitarian or family unification reasons.

However, the requirement that the original sponsor sign financial support affidavits has rendered this authority meaningless. Applicants who have been given permission to continue their application after the death of the petitioner have routinely had those applications denied for failure to obtain the signature of the deceased petitioner.

Under the H.R. 1892 bill, family members are allowed to step-in and sign the affidavit of support. The family members include spouses, parents, children, siblings and legal guardians. The bill further broadens the definition of family member to include in-laws, allowing then to petition as well. The Attorney General will re-examine cases involving immigrants who abandoned green-card applications after their sponsor died.

During the June 26 hearing of the full Judiciary committee, the panel adopted another amendment that added grandparents and grandchildren to the list of family members who can sign the affidavit of support. The bull now proceeds to the floor of the House for a vote, where it is expected to pass.

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