A bill that would keep the Diaz family together while Luis Sr.'s political asylum appeal is considered was introduced late Thursday night in the U.S. House.
The effort by U.S. Rep. David Wu, a Hillsdale Democrat who represents Oregon's 1st Congressional District, is the first step toward an act of Congress that the Beaverton family has held out hope for.
Wu is sponsoring H.R. 5745, a private congressional bill to continue the stay on the deportation of Irma Diaz and her two oldest children, Luis Jr. 21, and Monica, 19.
'The bill would allow the mother and two children to remain in the United States during the appeal process for the father's political asylum case,' said Jillian Schoene, spokeswoman for Wu. 'Ultimately, it's about keeping the family together.'
Wu introduced the private bill on the family's behalf, she said.
It will be referred to a House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, which would request a report from the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
'Through that action, the stay is continued,' Schoene said. 'Our next step is to work with the committee.'
The Diaz family's plight was brought to Wu's attention by a flurry of calls from concerned neighbors, friends and former teachers as well as a formal request by the family's immigration attorneys Tilman Hasche and Sherilyn Waxler of Parker, Bush and Lane, P.C.
Signed petitions and letters from residents of Beaverton's Heritage Village Manufactured Home Community, members of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Aloha, and the staff of Elmonica Elementary School urged Wu to take action to keep the Diaz family together in the United States.
Letters of support praised the family's character and contributions to the community.
'If we could choose our neighbors Luis would be the type of person we would want to have living next door; a neighbor we could depend on and trust,' wrote Alice Baker, a Heritage Village neighbor. 'If he has to leave we would lose a man who embodies the qualities we want to see in an American citizen, but also we would lose a friend.'
Philip and Gloria Hook also voiced their support.
'We feel that of all people, Luis should be allowed to remain in the United States,' they wrote. 'He exemplifies what our great country stands for. He doesn't live off public assistance or ask for a hand out. He is a decent, honest, hard working, young man and a valued asset to our neighborhood and our community.'
Dell Clouser another neighbor called the Diaz family 'an inspiration to other Latinos working toward their citizenship.'
The family's neighbors are not alone in their call for action on behalf of the Diaz family.
Tish Shinn, an English as a second language teacher at Elmonica Elementary School, also shared the family's story and rallied supporters.
'The only thing this family lacks is an authentic piece of paper that says they are citizens,' Shinn said. 'In every reality they are citizens.
'They've made every attempt in the last 15 years to learn the language, work, pay taxes and contribute to this society. The children were all raised here. It breaks my heart to think of Luis Jr. and Monica going back to Guatemala and having their bright futures stolen.'
Monica, a freshman at Portland Community College and 2005 Westview High School graduate, has volunteered in Shinn's classroom for several years.
The 19-year-old works at an embroidery shop in Cedar Mill with her mother to pay for school and dreams of becoming a teacher and elementary school principal.
'I love helping kids,' Monica Diaz said. 'I want them to succeed and have good teachers like I did.'
Monica's older brother Luis Jr. has dreams of his own.
The 2003 Westview High School graduate holds two jobs. He serves as a sales associate in the shoe department of Kohl's and as a cashier at Ay Carumba.
'My dream is to have my own business and be able to support myself,' Luis Jr. said. 'I want to live here and be happy. Finishing college has always been my dream because I want to be somebody.'
The uncertainty of their future breaks Shinn's heart.
'These are young people from another country who will go on to be role models for others in this country,' Shinn said. 'They are the kind of people that enrich our lives. Luis Jr. and Monica are American children and they should stay here.'
Sherilyn Waxler, an attorney representing the family in the case, is encouraged by the fact Wu was willing to champion a private bill.
'It's incredibly hard to get a private bill through,' she said. 'It has to be a truly exceptional case and this one is.'
As the family and its attorney's wait for word about the progress of the bill, they remain focused on continuing the fight to keep Luis Sr. and his 11-year-old daughter Jennifer, who was born in Portland, in the United States.
The political asylum and cancellation of removal claims are both on appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals and may also be appealed to the Ninth Circuit, Waxler said.
'The timeline is unpredictable,' she added. 'It could be months or years before there is some final resolution on this case.'
In the meantime, we want the family to remain together, she said.
'What makes this truly sad is that they really built their life here in the 15 years that immigration didn't have a chance to get to certain cases,' Waxler said. 'It's just so devastating. All we can do is hold out hope along with the family that one more stone will turn over and that someone will see it and help us.'