New Mexico’s lone Republican in Congress, U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, introduced an immigration bill Thursday with Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas that would allow U.S. citizens to sponsor immediate family members who have been barred from entering the country.
But immigration reform advocates say chances are slim that Congress will pass any immigration-related proposals by the end of year.
“I have long said that we should never split up families, and today’s proposed law allows the careful and sensible evaluation of cases where American families have been wrongly separated,” the Southern New Mexico congressman said in a news release.
The proposed law would allow an immigration judge or the Department of Homeland Security to review cases and give relief to people who have been barred from entering the country legally because of an immigration violation on his or her record and who have immediate family members who are U.S. citizens.
“I have heard countless heartbreaking stories of families in my district forced to live apart because of arbitrary laws with punishments that do not fit the actions and serve no public interest,” said O’Rourke, who represents a border district in Texas.
The Texas congressman first announced his intention to introduce the American Families United Act when he attended a wedding in August, held at the Texas-Mexico border. Edgar Falcon, who is a U.S. citizen, married Maricruz Valtierra, a Mexican citizen who was barred from entering the country for the rest of her life after her sister lied to immigration officials years ago, saying at a border check that they were both U.S. citizens.
Under current immigration rules, when someone lies about his or her immigration status at the U.S.-Mexico border, the would-be immigrant can get barred from ever applying to enter the country legally. Currently, Valtierra lives in Ciudad Juaréz and Falcon lives in El Paso.
“For American families like mine, with my beloved wife Maricruz in exile, this is encouraging,” Falcon said in the news release.
The proposed bill, however, would not allow anyone with a serious criminal record to have a case reviewed, even if they have immediate family members who are U.S. citizens.
Members of the House have routinely introduced stand-alone immigration bills as opposed to what has been done in the Senate, which passed a comprehensive bill in June that would create a pathway to citizenship and increase border security.
House Republicans have rejected the Senate bill, but GOP lawmakers have not agreed on how to deal with the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.
Contact Uriel J. Garcia at 986-3062 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ujohnnyg.