THE ABC'S OF IMMIGRATION - PRIVATE BILLS
During the past year, Congress passed 17 private immigration bills granting permanent residency to a small number of individuals. Private bills are a rare form of relief from immigration laws and are generally reserved for the most compelling cases. In the legislative process, private bills are treated like any other law, going though the committee process to a vote by the full Congress. However, getting a private bill introduced is not easy. The immigration subcommittees in both the House of Representatives and the Senate have detailed rules on what is required for the introduction of such a bill.
The most essential step in obtaining a private bill is, of course, finding a member of Congress willing to sponsor the bill. Following the introduction of the bill, information about the person it will benefit needs to be supplied to the chair of the immigration subcommittee by the member of Congress sponsoring the bill. The procedure from there is much the same as it is with other legislation.
In the first story in this newsletter at http://www.visalaw.com/00dec3/1dec300.html, we told you about three clients of Siskind, Susser, Haas & Devine who benefited from private bills this year. The stories behind some of the other private bills passed this year follow:
Wei Jingsheng. Senator Spencer Abraham (R-MI) introduced a private bill to grant permanent residence in the US to of this Chinese national who spent 29 years in prison in China because of his pro-democracy activities. Jingsheng was released by authorities to seek medical treatment in the US in 1997.
Jacqueline Salinas and her children Gabriela, Alejandro and Omar. Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) introduced a private bill to grant permanent residence to this family. They originally came to the US to seek treatment for Gabriela’s cancer at the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. While here, the family was in a car wreck that killed Mr. Salinas and another child.
Persian Gulf Evacuees. Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV) introduced a private bill to help 54 families who were unable to obtain legal status following their evacuation from Kuwait during the Gulf War. Many of the evacuees had provided shelter to Americans caught in Iraq when the war started, actions that put them at risk of retaliation from the Iraqi government.
Guy Taylor. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a private bill to obtain permanent residence for this young man. He was born in Canada but spent most of his life in the US. His father died before he was born, and after he and his mother moved back to Canada, she died of a drug overdose. Taylor returned to live with his grandmother in California, but was unable to seek permanent residence on his own because he was under 21, and because he was over 16 he could not be adopted by his grandmother.
Tony Lara. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a private bill to obtain permanent residence for Tony. In 1990, Tony, along with his parents and sister, fled El Salvador during the country’s civil war. His mother was deported and died trying to reenter the US. His father turned to drugs, abandoned his children and was eventually deported. A neighbor family took Tony and his sister in, and adopted his sister, but could not afford to adopt Tony. Tony was taken in by the wrestling coach at his high school, and went on to win the state wrestling championship for his class.
Jose Guadalupe Tellez Pinales. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced a private bill to obtain permanent residence for Jose. Jose entered the US with his parents when he was three years old. After his father died, his mother left him with a great-uncle. The uncle later obtained citizenship, and mistakenly thought it would make Jose a citizen as well. By the time they realized the mistake, Jose was too old to be adopted, and without any recourse to legalized his status in the US.
Saeed Rezai. Representative Chris Cannon (R-UT) introduced a private bill to obtain permanent residence for Mrs. Rezai, an Iranian national. She entered the US in 1986 as a student, and later married a US citizen. She obtained conditional permanent residence, but was divorced before the conditions were removed. She filed a request for a waiver of the requirement that an application for removal of conditions be filed by both spouses, but it was denied, as was her application for asylum. Mrs. Rezai later married another US citizen, but the application for adjustment was denied because her spouse had previously been found to have committed marriage fraud. In the meantime, Mrs. Rezai developed multiple sclerosis.
The Congressmen who support private bills do a tremendous amount of work to ensure their passage, and without their efforts, those who benefit from the bills would most likely be forced to leave the US.