Giving the family lawful permanent status in the United States “would allow them to at least pursue their best hope for Charlie,” Mr. Franks wrote in an opinion piece published on Tuesday by Fox News.
But it is also unlikely to become law, according to some immigration experts, because it was filed under a parliamentary procedure known as a “private bill” that is traditionally used to help people who are already living in the United States avoid being deported.
Hiroshi Motomura, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who specializes in immigration law, said the bill would also have to overcome the political backdrop of a situation with clear divisions over who has the right under British law to decide whether Charlie lives. A similar ethical argument gripped the United States in 2005 during the right-to-die debate over Terri Schiavo, whose brain damage at age 26 left her in a vegetative state.
“The odds are against this specific legislation, partly because of political overtones, family ties to the situation, and statistically, very few of these cases are enacted,” Mr. Motomura said. “And it’s not necessary to give them a green card.”
He said only 170 similar pieces of legislation have become law since 1983.
Legal measures already in place to help foreigners seeking medical treatment in the United States include a 90-day entry without a visa, a six-month visitor’s visa and humanitarian parole, which itself is a rare immigration admission granted in a compelling emergency.
A spokesman for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services declined to comment for this report.
Mr. Wenstrup said the legislation would help support Charlie’s family indefinitely by expediting the arduous process for legal entry. It would also allow the family seek employment and receive financial aid for medical bills without first being given a green card.
Charlie’s slim hope for treatment, Mr. Wenstrup said, reminds him of his sister’s battle with two forms of aggressive leukemia. After her diagnosis 23 years ago, she flew from Cincinnati to Seattle to receive an experimental bone marrow treatment that insurance companies deemed a risk. She is now healthy and married with children.
“I feel for people in this situation,” Mr. Wenstrup said. “What parent would not do whatever they could to save their son’s life?”
A similar bill was passed in 2012 to give permanent residency to a Nigerian student who sought to pursue a medical degree and continue receiving treatment for a rare genetic disorder that caused large facial tumors. It was the last time a “private bill” became law.
But Mr. Wenstrup said he is hopeful and has already received vocal support from other legislators.
“Cures begin with one,” Mr. Wenstrup said. “I think it’s important to give Charlie a fighting chance.”