Alex’s Law: H.R. 3750
A MISSOURI FAMILY’S FIGHT TO STAY TOGETHER MOVES INTO THE HANDS OF CONGRESS
Rene Alexander “Alex” Garcia Maldonado (A# 078-176-440) fled extreme poverty and violence in Honduras and came to the US 14 years ago. He was living and working in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, where he met his wife, Carleen “Carly” Garcia. Together, they built their family of 7. In 2017, federal immigration authorities arbitrarily denied Alex’s request for a stay of removal, after having seen the merit of his claims and granting him stays for the previous two years. Determined to keep their family together in spite of this immoral decision, Alex took sanctuary at Christ Church United Church of Christ in Maplewood, Missouri, where he will stay until he is granted reprieve from deportation and reunited with his family. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has full discretion to grant Alex a stay of removal, but has failed to do so. This family is out of options, and they need you to do whatever it takes to help keep this American family together.
What is H.R. 3750?
On July 12, 2019 Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (MO-1) introduced H.R. 3750, a private immigration bill that would permanently stop Alex’s deportation and grant him permanent residency, so he can be reunited with his family in Southern Missouri where he belongs, and put Alex on a pathway to citizenship. Shortly thereafter, Carly and Sara John (IFCLA’s Executive Director) traveled to Washington DC as part of the national Sanctuary Collective to advocate for H.R. 3750 and request private bills for all families living in sanctuary. Through multiple meetings with members of Congress and their staff, we learned that our Representatives do not hear the support from our communities, congregations, organizations and individuals. They aren’t convinced that Alex or other families living in sanctuary should be a priority.
What is a Private Bill?
Since the beginning of American democracy, Congresspeople have relied on the tool of a private bill when public laws don’t honor the dignity of their constituents, or when public laws have caused damage. Generally, a private bill is a law written to provide much-needed relief for a specific person or group of people when public laws fail to do so. Additionally, private bills have served as an early-warning system that demonstrate to Congress a need to reform public laws.
Private bills can remedy hardships and injustices in a variety of issues, including immigration. In total, Congress has enacted over 7,000 private immigration laws since 1789, which represents about 10% of the number of private immigration bills that were introduced. In recent years, however, the number of bills both introduced and enacted has declined significantly. Historically, as public immigration laws become more exclusionary and more restrictive, Congress has relied upon private bills to protect the American people and shift public legislation in the longer term. Many of the core principles of public immigration law in the U.S. (for example, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952) were the result of pressure from and patterns of injustice demonstrated by private immigration bills.
With support from his attorney at the MICA Project, Alex Garcia has done everything possible under existing laws to make this right. But, as it is for thousands of immigrants living in the United States, the outdated laws don’t honor their humanity, their contributions to our communities, and to our country.
However, a new law can be written. For Alex, a private bill would likely grant a common sense waiver for immigration penalties imposed over 15 years ago. The same penalties that fail to account for the 6 U.S. citizens that depend on him for emotional and financial support. These same egregious consequences fail to recognize the co-responsibility for U.S. intervention in his native Honduras, which not only contributed to the conditions that influenced his decision to migrate nearly 20 years ago but also maintain the violence, poverty and corruption that would stand in the way of this American family’s ability to survive if Alex was deported.
Private bills are an important tool in our democracy. This is a creative effort the Defense Team has decided to pursue, given that all other remedies within the law have been exhausted. IFCLA, the MICA Project and Christ Church are committed to supporting the Garcia Family through every step of this process until Alex is granted legal permanent residency and can return to raising his family in Missouri.
In the Hands of Congress
After Rep. Clay introduced the bill, it was automatically assigned to the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. In order for the bill to begin moving, the bill’s sponsor needs to send a letter to Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee, requesting that it be considered. Then, it will begin a series of hearings, reports and Congressional work. If it gets voted out of the Committee, then it will be placed on a special calendar, and will eventually be called for a vote before the entire House of Representatives. If it passes the House, the final bill will get presented to the Senate, where it will follow a similar path. When both sides of Congress agree on the text of the bill and vote to pass it, it will get presented to the president. Then, the President has 10 days to either sign it, veto it, or allow it to pass without signing. If it is enacted (with or without the President’s signature), then the Department of Homeland Security will be instructed to take the necessary actions to grant Alex Garcia legal permanent residency and reunite this family.
It Takes a Village
This family needs your support.
The road to enacting a private bill is long, uphill, and wrought with obstacles. At every step of the way, the family faces incredible challenges and opportunities for this dream to be shattered and their family forced into separation without relief once again. Christ Church will continue to support this family through offering sanctuary to Alex until he is granted permission to stay, which could come in various formats at multiple steps of this process.
Alex and Carly need your help to demonstrate all of the community support their family enjoys. The family is requesting: all supporters nationwide to sign-on to a new digital petition; family and friends with personal relationships with Alex, Carly, or their children to write personal letters of support; and, clergy and faith leaders to sign-on to a faith-based letter of support. Details and instructions will be posted on Facebook (@AlexBelongsHere) and on the website (http://www.stlsanctuary.org).
Family separation, by sanctuary, incarceration, or deportation, is devastating, immoral and un-American. More than 55 years ago, the actions of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that led to his arrest on Good Friday and the words of the powerful letter he wrote from the Birmingham Jail still ring true today: “The time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.” The time for liberation, dignity and justice is right now. The time is certainly ripe to do right for the Garcia family. We are part of a struggle that started long before us, has taken many forms, and yet tirelessly persists. Let us not forget that now is the time.
Sign the new petition
Below is a link to a petition requesting Congress to pass a Private Immigration Bill that will stop the deportation of Rene "Alex" Garcia and provide the pathway to unity this family needs. ALL are welcome and encouraged to sign!
Write a personal statement
If you have a personal relationship with Alex, Carly, or their children, please consider writing a personal letter of support that would get filed with the supporting evidence when the Private Bill is introduced. Letters should follow the guidelines below and be submitted to Alex’s attorney.