Oct 31, 2013

Washington, DC (October 31, 2013)‎– Today, U.S. Representatives Steve Pearce (R-NM-02) and Beto O’Rourke (D-TX-16) announced the introduction of H.R. 3431, the American Families United Act.  This bipartisan immigration bill would grant discretionary authority to review specific cases for a small number of Americans who are separated from their families due to minor earlier violations which are technical in nature or occurred when the family member was a minor.  Such review was permissible until 1996, when the current regulations were put in place. 

Both O’Rourke and Pearce have handled federal casework for constituents whose families have been needlessly separated.   The American Families United Act would allow a judge or the Secretary of Homeland Security to review these cases and determine whether relief is in the public interest, an option not currently available.  The legislation would prohibit this review for individuals without a legal basis to live in the U.S., or those with a serious criminal record.

“I am proud to work across party lines to allow justice for wrongfully separated families with my good friend Congressman O’Rourke,” said Pearce.  “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, but still makes sure that our immigration laws are upheld.  Immigration is an important issue that is central to the future of our country.  I am hopeful that the small step we take today will be the start of further cooperation between our two parties in Washington, and that we can tackle greater challenges of immigration reform together in the near future.”

“This is an issue of fairness and standing up for U.S. citizen families,” said O’Rourke.  “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.  This targeted legislation would provide necessary discretion to judges and the Department of Homeland Security to provide relief to families who could live legally in the U.S. except that they committed a minor immigration violation in the past. It is commonsense and it is the right thing to do. I am happy to work with Congressman Pearce to show that there is a bipartisan way forward to fix our immigration system.”

Edgar Falcon of El Paso, Texas was recently married literally on the U.S.-Mexico border because his wife is barred from the U.S. for life due to an older sister's explanation when she was sixteen.  Falcon said: “I want to thank Congressman Pearce, who has shown real courage in supporting this bipartisan bill, and especially my Congressman, Beto O’Rourke, who promised when he came to my wedding on the Paso del Norte International Bridge that he would introduce this bill and work tirelessly to get it enacted into law. For American families like mine, with my beloved wife Maricruz in exile, this is encouraging. Congress is not all partisan bickering. They can solve America’s problems, and this is how to solve one of them.”