Widows' Best Friend

Brent Renison takes on Immigration

Published in 2007 Oregon Super Lawyers magazine

By Cliff Collins on November 9, 2007

Immigration lawyer Brent Renison’s livelihood mostly involves helping corporations hire specialized foreign professionals. But the plight of one immigrant inspired him to fight a flaw in immigration law. Over the past three years, Renison, 39, established a nonprofit organization called Surviving Spouses Against Deportation, with the mission of getting rid of the “widow penalty,” a little-known 1970 ruling. It affects spouses of U.S. citizens who die within two years of the marriage, before the surviving spouse’s application for permanent residency was processed.

“Immigration officials then simply deny the application, and surviving spouses are placed in deportation proceedings or are forced to hide in the shadows,” he says. 
Renison, of Parrilli Renison, estimates he has donated 1,000 hours over the past three years to the American Immigration Law Foundation, tracking cases around the country, pushing legislation in Congress and representing widows.
In 2004, Renison began representing Carla Arabella Freeman, a citizen of South Africa and Italy who lost her husband after less than a year of marriage, then faced deportation. He died before her application for permanent residency was processed.
In 2006, Renison persuaded the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the deportation ruling, but that affects only the Western United States. That’s why he and 50 to 60 other lawyers—who each represent one or two widows—keep trying to change the law. 
In June, Renison received an American Immigration Lawyers Association Presidential Award for his efforts.

Search attorney feature articles

Featured lawyers

Brent Renison

Top rated Immigration lawyer Parrilli Renison, LLC Portland, OR

Other featured articles

Imposing in stature, litigator David Herzog takes his work—not himself—seriously

Jo Ellen Whitney has been entering dishes in the Iowa State Fair for 20 years—and she has no intention of stopping

Cincinnati litigator Carolyn Taggart takes the sting out of facts that might trip up a jury

View more articles featuring lawyers

Find top lawyers with confidence

The Super Lawyers patented selection process is peer influenced and research driven, selecting the top 5% of attorneys to the Super Lawyers lists each year. We know lawyers and make it easy to connect with them.

Find a lawyer near you