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October 8, 2006
The Compounded Tragedy Of Dahianna Heard

Dahianna Heard became a widow this past March, when her husband Jeffrey got killed in an ambush delivering supplies to American troops near Fallujah. Jeffrey worked as a contractor in Iraq after serving in both the Army and the National Guard. She and her one-year-old son will have to live without him, and in a particularly cruel twist of fate, will have to do so while being deported back to her native Venezuela:

Dahianna and Jeffrey Heard often talked of their life after the war as a dream they would live together: buy a house, raise a family, travel abroad.

But Jeffrey, a Casselberry contractor for a security company supporting U.S. troops in Iraq, was shot to death this spring during an ambush of his convoy near Fallujah.

Now his wife, a Venezuela native raising their 1-year-old son, faces possible deportation.

One reason: They hadn't been married long enough. She was three months short of the two years needed to satisfy immigration-law rules.

She is appealing for residency. But if that fails and she must leave, she said their son Bryan may have to grow up in her native country -- despite being a U.S. citizen.

Had Jeffrey died in June, Dahianna would have no problem staying in her adopted country. The fact that her husband died serving his country in a war zone as a civilian has no legal impact on her status. All that matters in this case is the length of the marriage, and ICE will not recognize the marriage as non-fraudulent unless 24 months pass -- regardless of the fact that the Heards had a son together.

Congress has an exemption that would cover this situation in committee, but it will not reach the floor in time to assist Dahianna in her situation. The exemption already exists for members of the armed forces and their surviving families, and a number of attempts have been made to extend it to civilians working for the Pentagon either directly or as contractors. The situation apparently has come before Congress before, because Dick Durbin and Barack Obama sponsored a resolution that allowed one of his constituents to remain in the US after her husband was killed in Iraq in 2004.

Several factors have complicated Dahianna's application. For one, she allowed her original tourist visa to expire a few years ago, staying on a succession of temporary work visas. She and Jeffrey dated for two years, but he stayed in Iraq for much of their marriage. He came home for vacations but the work in Iraq was pressing. ICE will probably argue that the lack of time spent in the marriage justifies their skepticism of its credibility. Jeffrey's mother believes differently, and has argued for Dahianna's cause, but to no avail.

If ICE cannot make an exemption for Dahianna, then she will have to return to Venezuela and the Hugo Chavez regime, a particularly galling outcome for the widow of a man who died serving freedom. She will take Jeffrey's child with her and out of the country Jeffrey protected in several different phases of his life. Surely this cannot be justice. (via The Florida Masochist)

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 8, 2006 9:28 AM

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