Since being deported to her native Canada in 2005, ex-Portland restaurateur Rose-Marie Barbeau Quinn has been shoveling snow in Ontario the past three winters.
"I miss Portland a lot," says Quinn, who owned the Vat and Tonsure restaurant in downtown Portland for 23 years before her deportation (see "Widow's Lament," WW, Sept. 21, 2005). "It's like I'm in a time warp. I have my home in Portland, and I'm living in another country. It's weird. I'm sad. I don't belong here."
But a bill in Congress is giving the 66-year-old widow—like more than 150 similarly situated men and women—some hope she'll be able to return one day to her vacant home in Southwest Portland.
The bill, HB 6034, is nicknamed "a bill for widows," because it will give surviving spouses of U.S. citizens two years to petition for citizenship after their spouse dies. The bill would start the citizenship application clock anew for Quinn and others.
Under current immigration law, surviving spouses who aren't citizens—but are otherwise legal immigrants—are deported if they've been married less than two years and haven't been granted citizenship at the time of their spouse's death; the so-called "widow penalty."
The current law has affected widows of soldiers who have died in Iraq, artists and teachers, as well as Quinn.
She and her husband, Mike Quinn, had lived together for almost 25 years. "Officially" married to Quinn a few hours before he succumbed to cancer in December 1991, she ended up losing her subsequent 14-year fight against deportation.
"We just want to come home," she said in a recent telephone interview with WW about herself and others who'd be affected by the bill. She spoke from her apartment in Sudbury, a city of about 165,000 residents 280 miles west of the Canadian capital, Ottawa.
The widow's bill introduced by Reps. James McGovern (D-Mass.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) has 27 co-sponsors. The only sponsor in Oregon's congressional delegation is U.S. Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.). Wu tells WW he's worried about the bill's prospects because Republicans "have been pounding the drum for stronger immigration laws."
Even though Democrats control Congress and the bill has three Republican co-sponsors, Wu says "[that pounding] has unfortunately resounded through the entire House."
The Vat and Tonsure closed in 2005 after Quinn's deportation became official.