A federal judge in Los Angeles has tentatively ordered the Department of Homeland Security to reopen cases of 22 people who were denied green cards because their American spouses died during the application process.
The judge issued the preliminary ruling Monday in the class-action lawsuit and he's expected to make a final decision after a hearing Wednesday.
The judge cited a 2006 appeals court decision that says applicants don't lose their status as spouses of U.S. citizens if the spouse dies before the government rules on their permanent residency applications.
The plaintiffs' attorney, Brent Renison, says immigration officials "dragged their heels" on the applications. He says there are more than 200 people nationwide affected by the widow penalty.