If ever there was a case deserving of a private bill...
First a note to our readers: I didn't want to write an article politicizing a stranger's life and death struggle between leukemia and immigration laws. But she and her family need help and I was angered by some of what I read about the response by Cory Gardner's staff. Visit Brenda Casten's Facebook page and WePay site, where you can help a young mother fighting leukemia.
I recently ran across this article in the Coloradoan: Immigration status threatens Fort Collins cancer patient:
[Brenda] Casten, a 24-year-old Fort Collins resident with three children, has been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of the bone marrow and blood. She has received chemotherapy for the aggressive disease but may need a bone marrow transplant if she is to overcome it.
But Casten, who has lived in the United States since she was 2 years old, is not a citizen. She spent part of her childhood in Colorado's foster care system, she said, but the paperwork that would have established her citizenship was never filed.
At this point, Casten has lived in the United States for about 22 years, yet because of oversights in her citizenship paperwork to gain citizenship and the health care she needs to survive, she would have to move to Mexico and start the process from the beginning.
The prospect of going to Mexico, where she has no connections or family, is "scary," Casten said. She speaks little Spanish.
"It would be like taking someone and putting them in China," she said. "Nothing is the same; the living is not the same. ... I'm American."
I certainly understand the reasons for the many hoops we make people jump through who want to immigrate. However, at some point, we ought to say there are more important things than dotting every 'i' and crossing every 't'. In Brenda's case, strict adherence to those rules might cost a young mother her life, because her status prevents her husbands insurance from paying her mounting medical bills.
To cover the enormous costs, the Castens are asking for donations, but she needs so much more.
Based on the article, she has nearly exhausted her options for citizenship. Basically, she's at the point where she needs some significant intervention or she may not win her struggle with leukemia.
One option, which is the political equivalent of a Hail Mary is that a Member of Congress can introduce a "private bill," which changes the laws for her immigration process. This is not an impossible thing, but few ever get passed. But there's a chance they could and it would mean the difference between life and death for her.
When the Coloradoan asked Cory Gardner's office about the possibility of a Private Bill, his District Director Michael Bennett responded:
But private relief bills rarely are passed by both houses of Congress, said Mike Bennett, district director for Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo. Since 2005, only three private relief bills of the 493 that were introduced were adopted.
Rather than pursue a private bill, residents with immigration issues are better served working with a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of immigration regulations, he said.
Essentially, Gardner's office said they weren't interested because they don't often go anywhere. He instead recommended hiring a good lawyer. If only Gardner were so apathetic about other bills that will never get signed into law, like all of the GOP agenda.
This seems like the exact case that private bills were invented for. Brenda Casten may not survive if she has to now go through the usual process after living in the United States for 22 of her 24 years. The private bill would eliminate all of that red tape. This is a matter of life and death.
Please, call Gardner's office (202-225-4676) and ask him to support a private bill to help Brenda Casten. Also, she needs help and every dollar we can give will ease the pain of mounting bills. She accepts donations here.
Based on Gardner's staff's indifference to Brenda's plight, I'm not convinced he will support such a bill. How about Senators Udall and Bennet? They can also introduce a private bill. It just seems like someone with the ability should reach out and help Brenda and her family.
Disclaimer: I had trouble writing this, because I didn't want to try and politicize a stranger's struggle with leukemia. But the indifference to her situation demonstrated by Gardner's staff in the Coloradoan article really upset me. Yes, private bills rarely pass and she shouldn't put all her eggs in that basket, but it's worth a shot.
What is the harm? Maybe that Gardner's supporters won't like him helping an "illegal"? Well, who cares. This woman needs help. If her immigration issues are not solved, so may not survive. She has 3 children and it would be a travesty to allow immigrations laws to mean they might grow up without a mother.