A private bill to save Carmela Apolonio Hernández from deportation
The undocumented immigrant and her four kids, who remain in sanctuary in the Church of The Advocate, got the support of U.S. House representative Bob Brady, who introduced a private bill for the Congress to grant them permanent residency.
This passed Wednesday, for the first time in Pennsylvania, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill as a last resort for Carmela Apolonio Hernández and her four children to avoid deportation to Mexico.
The Democratic Representative for District 1 of Pennsylvania, Bob Brady, introduced the private bill H.R. 5623 to the House Judiciary Committee on behalf of the Apolonio Hernández family. Its purpose is for Congress to grant them permanent residence in the country.
The text of the initiative reads that “notwithstanding subsections (a) and (b) of section 201 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, Carmela Apolonio Hernandez, Edwin Artillero Apolonio, Yoselin Artillero Apolonio, Keyri Artillero Apolonio, and Fidel Artillero Apolonio shall each be eligible for issuance of an immigrant visa or for adjustment of status to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence upon filing an application for issuance of an immigrant visa under section 204 of such Act or for adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident.”
During a press conference held this passed Thursday at the Church of the Advocate, Apolonio Hernández expressed gratitude to all who have joined their struggle and said she was hopeful that this initiative "can stop deportation, reopen my case and that people continue to support."
Karen Warrington, Brady’s director of communications, said that although historically this type of bills “are very difficult to get passed, we’re gonna spend all of our energy trying to get the support for this bill and also to send a message that this congressman, this community, and this coalition, stand behind this family and that there are hundreds of families in this country that need this kind of support.”
Carmela Apolonio Hernández and her four children remain in sanctuary at the Church of The Advocate, in North Philadelphia, since last December 13th after receiving a deportation order issued by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Apolonio Hernández and her four children left Mexico in August 2015 after organized crime gangs murdered a family member in Acapulco and threatened her. She entered the United States covered by an asylum process that degenerated in the deportation order.
According to Jazmín Delgado, community organizer of the Sanctuary Advocate Coalition –an alliance of eight organizations in Philadelphia– the H.R. 5326 "is part of a coordinated effort with other sanctuary leaders across the country to raise the profile of these cases so that they can also influence Congress to vote on behalf and in support of these private bills, but also to push policies that really protect folks that here in this country.”
The private bill is a long-standing legal tactic that has been used in both houses of Congress as a last resort to curb or delay imminent deportations. According to the American Immigration Council, since 1983 there have been over 4,000 proposals of this type, but very few have passed.
According to data from the Congressional Research Service, cited by WHYY, between 1986 and 2013, only 170 private initiatives were approved, more than half of them on cases such as Carmela's.
Although the chances for this initiative to become law are minimal, cases like Jeanette Vizguerra and Arturo Hernández García are recent examples of how this kind of bills can mean temporary relief for thousands of undocumented immigrants facing an order of deportation.
Last year, in May, Deputy Director of ICE Thomas D. Hoffman sent a letter to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary in which he informed the president of that commission, Chuck Grassley, that the agency will not issue stay of removals to people whose cases had become private legislative projects.
Against this, Representative Brady will try to get at least 200 signatures in the House of Representatives to take his initiative forward.
For her part, Carmela says that if the bill doesn’t pass, she will stay in sanctuary indefinitely, at least until the political environment in Washington changes.
Even though the bill has all odds against, it will be useful to revive the debate on immigration reform.