Private Bill: Alex’s Law
A MISSOURI FAMILY’S FIGHT TO STAY TOGETHER MOVES INTO THE HANDS OF CONGRESS
After 527 days in sanctuary, Rene Alexander “Alex” Garcia Maldonado and the Garcia Family received a second visit from Rep. Lacy Clay, where they discussed a new strategy: introduce a private bill that would enable Alex to become a legal permanent resident.
Action for alex:
Tuesday, march 12, 5-7pm
Join us in either POPLAR BLUFF (Casa Grande Mexican Restaurant) or MAPLEWOOD (Christ Church UCC) on Tuesday, March 12 from 5-7pm to take #ActionforAlex. We need your help as we move into the next phase of the struggle for justice for the Garcia Family. As the fight moves to Congress and we work to pass a law that would reunite this family, we need YOU!
Sign the new petition
Below is a link to a NEW 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 by March 15.
ST. LOUIS, March 8, 2019 - The Garcia Family has been separated for over 17 months. Alex Garcia has been living in sanctuary at Christ Church United Church of Christ in Maplewood, MO, while this family fights for their right to stay together. Last week, the family met with Rep. William Lacy Clay, Jr., to discuss the newest strategy: a private bill.
Nearly one year ago, Rep. Lacy Clay became the first - and only - federal congressperson to visit Alex at Christ Church. At that time, he made a bold promise: to fight with the Garcias until he can watch Alex walk out of the church a free man. Rep. Clay has made calls and sent a letter to Mr. Ricardo Wong, the Field Office Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Chicago, who made the decision to deny Alex’s right to stay in the U.S. in September 2017. After Alex’s wife, Carleen “Carly” Garcia, visited Rep. Clay in Washington D.C. in September 2018 (as part of a Week of Action on the one year anniversary of her husband’s move into sanctuary), the Congressman made contact with Director Wong. At that time, Rep. Clay advocated hard for this family, but the partisan-based political influences didn’t respond favorably to his effort. The Congressman was informed that ICE will continue to push for Alex’s deportation.
Last week, the Garcias met with the Rep. Clay to request his support through sponsoring a private bill. “You will get your bill,” Congressman Clay promised them.
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.
With support from attorneys and organizers across the country, the MICA Project and IFCLA prepared materials, including a draft of the legislation that could be introduced, and met with Rep. Clay and his staff to propose the strategy. The Garcia’s and these organizations know that 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 Congressman Clay, his staff, and other co-sponsors of this bill 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
Once the bill is introduced, which the Garcias hope will be sometime in April 2019, it will be assigned to the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. There, 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.
The staff of IFCLA and MICA Project will work with Rep. Clay’s staff and the Garcias to find additional sponsors for this bill, which the Congressman has agreed to introduce. For more than a year, the family has tried to meet with their Poplar Bluff, Missouri, Congressman, Rep. Jason Smith. Efforts have been renewed and the team is awaiting confirmation for a meeting with him. Additional contacts have been made to generate support from allies in Congress across the country.
It Takes a Village
Now, 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’s Defense Team is working daily to update all of the documentation Rep. Clay and his co-sponsors will need to present the base case for Alex’s right to stay in Missouri. 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.