Can you do me a favor?

Published on September 16th, 2012

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) celebrated Ms. Benita Veliz this past week.  She is "just as American as any of my friends or neighbors."  How many of your friends and neighbors have the benefit of private legislation?

In 2009, Ms. Veliz happily celebrated not getting deported as Texas Representative Charles Gonzalez introduced a private bill for her so she would not be deported.  HR 3064 (For the relief of Benita Veliz-Castillo) was introduced in the 1st Session of the 111th Congress.  The bill provided Ms. Veliz eligibility for "issuance of an immigrant visa or for adjustment of status to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent resident" when she filed an application for an immigrant visa.  Additionally, she would have been seen as someone who entered the country lawfully if she paid the appropriate fees within two years of the Act's passage.  Upon the granting of the visa, the Secretary of State of Texas would reduce by one, the number of available immigrant visas.  Of course, the Act applies to Ms. Veliz only, not her parents or any other family members (that can be remedied through chain migration).  Granted no action was taken on the bill.  However, all it took for Ms. Veliz to avoid deportation was the private bill to be introduced on her behalf.

According to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), "Private bills serve a two-fold purpose.  On the one hand, they provide individual relief to deserving noncitizens.  On the other hand, an increase in the number of private bills involving a particular issue acts as a sort of early-warning system to advise Congress and other decision-makers of flaws an inequities in existing laws."  The private bills buy illegal aliens extra time.  How often are private bills introduced for these purposes?

Only four private immigration bills were enacted in the 108th Congress (2003-2005).  After a five years drought, by 2010, private immigration bills passed by the House & Senate were headed to Obama's desk for his signature.  As of September 2011, there were 66 such bills in Congress.

Of the seven private immigration bill cases highlighted by VisaLaw.com (a member of AILA), three of those cases were due to parents entering the US illegally with their children.  Of the CBS News story highlighting private immigration bill cases, one was for a child that was brought illegally to the US by his parents.  The other case was of a family visiting on a tourist visa, which gave birth to a severely ill child in a New York hospital.  This raises a question of fairness.

There are many compelling cases that give rise to a private immigration bill.  However, what about those compelling cases that are waiting in line to enter the US according to our immigration laws?  Who will do a favor for them?

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