President Obama Signs Rare Private Immigration Bill

1148655_vintage_fountain_pen_3.jpgCNN recently reported that President Obama signed a rare private bill for immigration relief on Tuesday of last week. This bill granted Nigerian student Victor Chukwueke U.S. permanent residence (i.e. a green card). Typically, in order to obtain permanent residence the foreign national must have a U.S. employer or a U.S. citizen/permanent resident family member sponsor the foreign national's green card application. However, in a very small number of cases, Congress has the ability to bypass this sponsorship requirement and grant permanent residence to a foreign national on Congress's own initiative.

Mr. Chukwueke is one of these special cases. He originally came to the U.S. 11 years ago at the age of 15 to receive critically needed medical care to treat his massive facial tumors. Mr. Chukwueke suffers from neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes him to develop gigantic and life-threatening tumors on his face. In his native country of Nigeria, Mr. Chukwueke's disease is not well-understood and he was treated as a social outcast for most of his life. He was ultimately abandoned by his family at a Nigerian orphanage.

In 2001, nuns from the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy found Mr. Chukwueke at the Nigerian orphanage, took him into their convent, and arranged for him to travel to the U.S. where a Michigan-based doctor treated his severe facial tumors.

Mr. Chukwueke's treatments were a profound success and he now resides in Michigan with the nuns who helped him secure his medical procedures. Although he has had seven surgeries, including one that permanently blinded him in one eye, Mr. Chukwueke obtained his GED (the equivalent of a high school diploma) and successfully pursued his Bachelor's degree in Biochemistry and Chemical Biology from Wayne State University. Now, he wants to attend the University of Toledo to pursue his medical degree. However, that university's medical program required Mr. Chukwueke to obtain permanent residency status before he could attend the school.

To assist Mr. Chukwueke in becoming a U.S. permanent resident, Michigan Senator Carl Levin sponsored a private bill of relief for Mr. Chukwueke, calling on Congress to approve him for a green card. The bill passed the Senate last summer and just passed the House.

Such private bills of relief are exceedingly rare and Mr. Chukwueke's bill is the first to have passed the Senate and House in two years. These bills are usually successful in only a small number of cases where the foreign national is suffering from a set of very extreme circumstances, such as Mr. Chukwueke and his facial tumors.

However, although rare, that is not to discourage prospective foreign national from considering a private bill as a form of immigration relief. To do so, the foreign national must find a Congressional Representative or Senator who would be willing to sponsor the bill and introduce the bill into Congress. After the bill is introduced, the foreign national must provide information about him/herself to the chair of the Immigration Subcommittee. Once the Subcommittee approves the bill, it moves to the House and Senate for final voting. If both the House and Senate approve the bill, the President will sign the bill and the foreign national will become a U.S. permanent resident.

To schedule a consultation with our office to discuss your own special case, call us at 650-293-0270, or simply complete our online contact form.

Additional Blog Posts:

Applying for an Immigration DREAM is actually a Complex Process, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, August 16, 2012
Startup Act 2.0 Receives Bipartisan Support in Congress, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, June 1, 2012

Immigration Reform / by Michelle Gee