There is something that immigration lawyers look at in much the same way that Sir Galahad viewed the Holy Grail: rare, virtually unattainable and sacred. We call our Holy Grail the “private bill.”
It’s nearly impossible to get a private bill. You need to have a sympathetic legislator, senator or representative, present the official request to Congress, and have it approved like a piece of special legislation. In doing so, you are asking him to move the administrative heavens and the judicial earth to allow your client to get a benefit that the law would otherwise prohibit.
It seems unfair, and in some cases it is, but it is so rare that there hasn’t been too much controversy about the process. The favored, blessed beneficiaries can be counted on the fingers, folded in prayer, of a few hands.
When you get one, it means that the universe understands the urgency of your request. When you find one, hidden in the thicket of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as dense as the forests through which Galahad traveled, you feel as if you have seen the face of God.
I’m sure that’s what Jeff Fortenberry felt when he got approval for his private bill, the one that granted green card status to a sick little boy who was fighting for his life, against an army of enemies disguised as compassionate friends.
The Congressman from Nebraska presented a bill that was approved, and would grant Charlie green card status the moment he arrives in the United States. This little boy would then be able to seek the healing, welcoming hands of U.S. specialists.
But the UK doesn’t want to let go of its citizen, the same child whose “Quality of Life” has been termed sub-par and unworthy of the extra efforts to harvest a miracle from despair. Those who support euthanasia, abortion and a twisted sort of concern for the disabled (they have imperfect lives, so let’s encourage them to end their “suffering” prematurely) think it’s perfectly normal to rush Charlie into the arms of a God they might not even believe exists.
And there are a lot of those sorts of compassionate friends in Great Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and other advanced countries where giving people the right to die when they want and in their own terms is considered civilized.
Fortunately, we in the United States, for all of our embrace of abortion rights, are still squeamish about overtly rejoicing in the right to “go gentle into that” night. We still cling to the ever waning, ever weaker idea that raging against the dying of the light is a sign of love.
And so, we rushed to use our immigration laws as a sword, shining and sharp and powerful as the one held by St. Michael, to fight for a little boy whose parents were desperate to save him from the false pieties and sympathies of a government that finally said, “Enough, child, we’ve done enough. Now, do us all a great Gabor and die.”
I am proud that the U.S. Congress looked for the Holy Grail. Sadly, the courts of the UK have so far refused to let Charlie travel toward hope. They are jealous of their tiny citizen, for whom they want to reserve the right to die, but not the right to live.
They will not release him to the welcoming arms of a system that believes in seeking miracles even when they appear chimeric, like the Grail.
For all of our confusion about health care, we Americans are generally certain about preserving the inherent dignity of the defenseless.
Whatever happens to Charlie, I’m so very proud of our defiant search for the Grail.