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Private Bill: Against All Odds - Guy Taylor Granted Green Card
by Carl Shusterman

President Clinton signed a dozen private immigration bills in November. One of them was a bill to grant our client Guy Taylor permanent residence in the U.S.

Reading about Guy's incredible story may be beneficial to other persons seeking permanent residence as well as to other immigration attorneys.

I first met Guy and his grandmother Oleta Hansen in the summer of 1996. Guy was a shy 16-year-old Canadian kid who had just become a orphan when his mother died of a drug overdose. His father had died before his birth, and his entire remaining family lived in the U.S. In fact, Guy had spent half of his life living and going to public schools in Southern California.

When Guy called his grandmother in California to tell him that his mother had died, she immediately flew to Vancouver. Not knowing what U.S. immigration laws required, she went to court where a Canadian judge awarded her guardianship of her grandson. However, when she presented the guardianship papers to an INS inspector at the airport, he scheduled Guy for a deferred inspection in Los Angeles.

I accompanied the family to the INS district office where Guy was issued a one-year humanitarian parole. Little did we realize that we would have to renew the parole twice before Guy could obtain permanent residence in the U.S. At Guy's request, he was also issued a work permit so that he could help pay his grandparents back for all they were doing for him.

The INS officers in Los Angeles suggested to Guy and his family that he apply for "derivative citizenship" since his grandmother was a U.S. citizen. However, since I had worked as a Citizenship Attorney for INS in Los Angeles in the late 1970's, it was painfully clear to me that Guy did not meet the requirements for derivative citizenship.

Neither was he eligible for permanent residence through adoption. In order to qualify, the adoption would have had to occur prior to his 16th birthday.

The family's friends and relatives all had suggestions. I learned that Oleta had a touch of Choctaw blood. The Choctaws issued Guy a card which certified that he was a member of the Choctaw Nation. However, our research told us that Guy would have to have at least 50% Choctaw blood to qualify as a U.S. citizen.

In my opinion, Guy's best chance was to apply to be deemed a "dependent" of the juvenile court. This status would enable him to become a permanent resident as a "special immigrant". The Department of Children Services in Los Angeles assured us that Guy would qualify. However, since Guy lived with his grandparents in neighboring Orange County, the Department of Children Services in that county would have to take Guy's case to court.

We contacted the Department of Children's Services in Orange County to seek their assistance. A department head informed us that since Guy was not abused and was living with his grandparents, he could not be considered as "abandoned." We explained his situation in detail, but to no avail.

In desperation, we contacted Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). After a sternly-worded letter from her office, we received a phone call from Orange County's Department of Children's Services. We were informed that the first supervisor that we had spoken with was mistaken. Guy was indeed "abandoned," and the County Counsel would obtain an order from a "referee" declaring Guy to be a "dependent" of the Juvenile Court. No attorney from our office needed to appear. The court order would be obtained and mailed to us within 48 hours.

A couple of days later, I received a phone call from the County Counsel's office. The referee had ruled that Guy was living happily with his grandparents and, therefore, was not abandoned. Guy and his grandparents never even got the chance to speak at the hearing. All they could do was file an appeal, an appeal which might not be decided for years!

We needed to call attention to Guy's plight so we held a press conference. Newspapers, radio and television stations in California and Canada covered the story. After the stories ran, we received strong support from the public. The prevailing attitude was disbelief. Why did the laws make it so difficult for an orphaned child with no family outside the U.S. to live with his grandparents? Mike Downey, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, wrote a column about Guy. Mike asked me to keep in touch with him about Guy's case.

Eventually, all the hoopla came to an end. Still, no resolution was in sight. We decided that the only way Guy could remain in the U.S. was by means of a private immigration bill granting him permanent residence. We knew that this was a long shot. During the past two-year congressional session, less than half a dozen private immigration bills were enacted into law. Nevertheless, we decided to give it a try.

Guy's grandmother and her friends gathered more than 1,000 signatures on a petition requesting that their local congressman introduce a private bill on Guy's behalf. Armed with these petitions, she and Guy met with their congressman. The congressman asked Guy what he planned to do if he were granted permanent residence. Guy explained to him that he wanted to enlist in the U.S. Army. The congressman suggested that he join the Canadian Army. The meeting went downhill from there.

Sobbing, Guy's grandmother called me and told me that the congressman had refused to sponsor a bill to help Guy. "He even asked Guy if he had any tattoos!" she cried. I told her that even though this was a setback, it was not the end of the road, not by a long shot. I spoke with Mike Downey at the Times. Mike wrote a terrific follow-up column about Guy entitled "One Last Hope For A Teenager Who Desires A Break". This column came to the attention of Senator Feinstein, and when Congress convened on January 24, 2000, our prayers were answered. Just after a bill on behalf of Elian Gonzalez (S.1999) was introduced, Senator Feinstein introduced S.2000, a bill to grant Guy Taylor a green card. Along with S.2000, Sen. Feinstein introduced Mike Downey's column into the Congressional record.

The text of S.2000 is available at


Mike Downey's column is at

It would take me another couple more pages to tell you about the tortured path that this legislation took in the Congress. Suffice to say that all's well that ends well. S.2000 was passed by the Senate in September, and by the House of Representatives in October.

On November 22, President Clinton signed S.2000 into law.

We held one last press conference, mostly to thank Senator Feinstein, the press and the American people for supporting Guy throughout this 2 year period. We were all smiles.

It was a day that we all dream about.

About The Author

Carl Shusterman is a certified Specialist in Immigration Law, State Bar of California
Former U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service Attorney (1976-82)
Board of Governors, American Immigration Lawyers Association (1988-97)
Phone: (213) 623-4592 Fax: (213) 623-3720
Law Offices of Carl Shusterman, 624 So. Grand Ave., Suite 1608
Los Angeles, California 90017