Soto, Escobar, Woodall Introduce Legislation to Keep Families Together in the United States

November 2, 2020
Press Release
American Families United Act could help Alejandra Juarez of Polk County

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Congressman Rob Woodall (GA-7) and Congressman Darren Soto (FL-9) introduced H.R. 8708, the American Families United Act. This bipartisan legislation is designed to preserve and promote family unity by amending the Immigration and Nationality Act to help millions of U.S. citizens reunite with their loved ones.

The American Families United Act would protect the rights and interests of U.S. citizens in our immigration system, and provide the Attorney General and the Department of Homeland Security Secretary discretion to allow certain individuals to be reunited in the United States. This legislation could help Alejandra Juarez, a Polk County resident of over 20 years, who was deported from the United States to her home country of Mexico. Alejandra’s husband, Sgt. Temo Juarez is an Iraq combat veteran who served in the Marines and the Infantry Regiment of the Army National Guard. Together, they raised their two U.S.-born daughters Pamela, 19, and Estela, 11, in Davenport, Florida. 

“I was at the Orlando International Airport when my constituent, Alejandra Juárez, a mother and wife, boarded a plane and headed for Mexico, a country to which she was born but did not call home,” said Congressman Soto. “She left behind her two American-born daughters, Pamela and Estela, and her husband, Temo, a veteran of both the U.S. Marines and Army. Since that day, I made a promise never to give up fighting to reunite them. The American Families United Act is key to fixing the broken immigration system that tears families apart and threatens the social fabric of thousands of communities across the country. We will reunite the families impacted by the Administration’s cruel immigration policies!”

The legislation, introduced by former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, was inspired by Edgar Falcon, an El Pasoan and constituent of Texas’ 16thCongressional District. Edgar married his wife Maricruz on the U.S.-Mexico border in 2013 after Maricruz was refused a visa. Since then, Edgar has traveled between his family’s home in Ciudad Juarez and his job in El Paso, but his ability to commute has been strained by the coronavirus pandemic. 

“For decades, families like Edgar’s across the U.S.-Mexico border have been forced to live apart from one another due to outdated immigration laws,” said Congresswoman Escobar. “Thousands of innocent children and families have been separated by a border between them, and we cannot stop fighting until every single family is reunited. The American Families United Act is a critical step in the right direction and will help bring loved ones together. Much more work remains in the 117th Congress and I look forward to achieving broader, bolder, and more comprehensive changes to our immigration system in the new year.”

“Families belong together,” said Congressman Woodall. “In many cases today, immigration policy provides U.S. citizens with absolutely no pathway for citizenship—or even a legal status—for their spouse. These policies either keep families apart or encourage families to stay in the shadows. We can do and must do better. We should be encouraging people to get right by the law. This bill keeps the families of American citizens together while undocumented spouses and some parents wait in line for their chance to become an American citizen.”

“I thank Congresswoman Escobar, who’s courageously supporting this bipartisan bill,” said Edgar Falcon, American Families United President and El Pasoan. “Our members are extremely grateful for her leadership, as well as the leadership of Congressman Woodall and Congressman Soto. We call on their Congressional colleagues to pass this bill because Americans have the right to marry for love without being forced to choose between marriage and our country.” 

“This legislation recognizes that family unity is at the core of our values as a nation. The American Families United Act is an important step in aligning the law of our land with the compassion and common-sense citizens expect from the world’s humanitarian leader,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “We are grateful to Representatives Escobar, Woodall and Soto for their commitment to enshrining in law the universal truth that families belong together.”

"As a coalition of business leaders, we recognize that a pro-business environment requires an immigration system that creates jobs, grows the economy, and keeps families together,” said Juan Carlos Cerda, Texas Dreamer and Business Outreach Manager, American Business Immigration Coalition. “We support the American Families United Act because it provides a pathway to legal status for more than 17% of Dreamers who have earned a degree and 1.7 million mixed-status families who are working and contributing to our country. We applaud Rep. Escobar for her bipartisan efforts to provide a solution for these essential workers, and we look forward to working with her on additional solutions that address our broken immigration system."

To view the bill text, click here and to view a section-by-section of the bill, click here.

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