Castro reintroduces bill to end deportation of immigrants sheltering in Austin churches.

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Confident with the new Biden administration and Democrat majority in Congress, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) has reintroduced three immigration bills from the last session. One of them is a private bill for sanctuary relief for three asylum seekers that are facing deportation orders and sheltering in Austin area churches.

The bill would provide permanent resident status and rescind ICE deportation orders for three Texans; Alirio Gamez, a Salvadoran refugee who has lived in Austin’s First Unitarian Universalist Church since 2017, and Hilda Ramirez and her teenage son, Guatemalan asylum seekers who have lived in St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in North Austin since 2016.

The two other bills reintroduced by Castro are a bill to remove the term “alien” and “illegal alien” from federal law and replace them with “foreign national” and “undocumented foreign national,” and legislation to require the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services to report on and investigate all migrant deaths that occur in government custody. 

The latter bill is named after Jakelin Caal, a seven-year-old child that died in Border Patrol custody. Her death was kept secret by the Trump administration for five days until the news was broken by The Washington Post.

In 2019, CBS News similarly revealed that a 10-year-old migrant girl from El Salvador died in government custody in 2018. Her death was not exposed to the public until eight months later.

“I have not seen any indication that the Trump administration disclosed the death of this young girl to the public or even to Congress,” Castro told CBS at the time. “And if that’s the case, they covered up her death for eight months, even though we were actively asking the question about whether any child had died or been seriously injured. We began asking that question last fall.”

In a statement announcing the reintroduced bills on Monday, Castro said the legislation now had a far greater chance of becoming law this year.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress and the Biden administration on long-overdue immigration reform, and I’m optimistic that my legislation will be included in a broader effort to protect the most vulnerable among us and restore America’s promise as a nation of immigrants,” Castro said.

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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