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Border & Immigration

Ten Years Of The 'Keeping Families Together Act'

H.R. 713
H.R. 713
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Throughout this year's presidential campaign, President Barack Obama tried appealing to Latino voters while simultaneously removing more immigrants from the United States than any sitting U.S president in history.

Some have posited that Obama's tough-on-immigration stance was meant to appease Republicans before attempting to pass broader immigration reform.


Of course, it's a sticky issue.

For example, one piece of legislation currently pending in the U.S. House of Representatives is the "Keeping Families Together Act of 2011" (H.R. 713).

The bill intends to roll back specific changes made to immigration policy in 1996, when the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 went into effect. It would repeal or restore sections to make the law look more like it did in the early 1990s.

H.R 713 calls for the reinstatement of judicial review, so judges can rule over whether or not a certain individual deserves to be deported based on the details of their situation. Currently, almost all deportations are processed without judicial review.

The bill would also grant the possibility of re-entry to the United States for people who have either already been deported or are in deportation proceedings by allowing them to appeal their deportation.


One of the biggest reforms intended by H.R. 713 would be the reconsideration of violent and non-violent crimes currently considered "aggravated felonies," which result permanent and mandatory deportation. The bill would repeal that definition, restoring the definition to a previous, more specific version.

Various forms of the H.R. 713 have now been pending for more than a decade, after an original presentation by California Congressman and current San Diego Mayor-elect Bob Filner.

Filner tried in 1999, in 2001, in 2003, in 2005, in 2007, and finally in 2009, under the name H.R. 913, the "Keeping Legal Immigrant Families Together Act of 2009."

In 2009, while introducing the bill, Filner said, "This law has allowed stable, long-term families headed by legal immigrants to be torn apart because of minor crimes committed years ago—crimes for which the offender has already served their sentence."

He went on to note that the "time has come to reverse the unfair so-called “immigration reforms” instituted by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996."

In February 2011, Filner repeated the statement verbatim when re-introducing the bill as H.R. 713.

According to, none of the 65 bills sponsored by Filner have made it into law. Out of the 704 bills he's co-sponsored, just 11 have made it. The website GovTrack noted that H.R 713 "has a 0% chance of being enacted."

For mixed-status families with undocumented and American citizen members, the stakes are high. For American-raised deportees, some of who are dying to "come home," H.R. 713 may be the only opportunity on the political horizon that would offer them a path to possibly return to the U.S.

The odds remain slim.