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Rep. Castro Introduces Private Bill for Austin Sanctuary Leaders
Austin, TX– Rep. Joaquin Castro took the rare step of introducing private immigration legislation for Hilda, Ivan and Alirio Thursday, Sept. 26. “We are overjoyed that the Member of Congress followed in our leadership and took this step,” says Hilda Ramirez, a mother who has lived with her son, Ivan, for 4-years now at an Austin church. “We are going to now ask other Members of Congress to do the same. Those of us living in Sanctuary need someone to fight for us. We need champions.”
The introduction of this bill, H.R. 4539, comes on the heels of other similar private bills being introduced around the country. In July, Rep. Lacy Clay (MO) introduced a bill for Alex Garcia and on Sep. 6th, Rep. Joyce Beatty (OH) introduced another for Edith Espinal. Advocates view these bills as especially urgent right now given the recent retaliation against these same Sanctuary leaders by the Trump administration, “We just filed responses to the governments fines,” says Lizbeth Mateo, an attorney with the National Sanctuary Collective. “The government is intentionally attempting to intimidate our families; we need more elected officials standing up and saying this is wrong.”
“For many months we have asked many elected officials to visit us and help us, but so far only Congressman Castro has kept his promise to do everything he can to help my mom and me regain our freedom,” 13-year-old Ivan said, “I am still waiting for him to come visit me here at the church, but I know he is busy right now.” Ivan and his mom have taken sanctuary with an Austin Presbyterian congregation for almost four years, while Gamez has taken sanctuary with a Unitarian Universalist congregation for more than two years.
The Austin Sanctuary Network has been knocking on congressional doors for over a year as members of the National Sanctuary Collective. Peggy Morton, ASN Board Chair, joined the group last week as they visited over 30 offices asking for relief for all immigrants currently living in sanctuary.
“I just returned from a trip to DC. We are very hopeful that Congressman Doggett will be coming around in the next few days with good news.”
“I am very grateful Castro did the private bill,” Alirio said. “This shows that when there is a will, there is a way. We need other members of Congress to do the same because we need all the support we can get as we stand strong while ICE does everything in their power to try to deport us”