17 December 2010

Rare US immigration bills pass Congress

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The US Congress has waived immigration restrictions for two Japanese citizens fighting to live in the United States, the first such to be approved in five years.

The private immigration bills passed by the House on Wednesday — they had already been passed by the Senate — and will now go to President Barack Obama for his signature.

One of the immigration bills would make it possible to grant US legal status to the widowed wife of a Tennessee Marine who gave birth to their son after he was killed in Iraq in 2008. The second would allow legal status to a Japanese man living in California whose mother was killed in a car crash when he was a teenager and who was never legally adopted.

Congress can vote to allow individual immigrants in exceptional cases to live in the country legally but hasn't done so since 2003. Such bills are seen as a last resort when other efforts to obtain a permanent US Visa, or green card, have failed.

A private bill is one that benefits or provides relief to specified individuals or companies, often when no other remedy is available. Subjects of private bills include immigration, taxation, public lands, medical affairs and Armed services decorations.

Private immigration bills were more common until a corruption scandal involving payoffs for the sponsorship of legislation in the 1970s, and then declined further after September 11.

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