South Carolina Republican Joe Wilson wants the government to grant permanent resident status to Sainey H. Fatty, an illegal immigrant who faces deportation to his native Gambia.
Wilson famously yelled "You lie!" in the House chamber during President Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress in September, when the president said the health care reforms he proposed would not apply to illegal immigrants. A Wilson aide tells ABC News the congressman believes Fatty's life is at danger in Gambia and that he should be allowed to remain at his current home in Columbia, S.C., the heart of Wilson's district.
The majority of private bills drafted over the past 30 years have involved cases like Fatty's, in which immigrants living in the United States appeal to lawmakers to prevent their often imminent deportations.
Also among the bills in the hopper this year is one involving the family of Amadou Diallo, the unarmed 22-year-old West African immigrant who was gunned down by four New York City police officers in 1999. Diallo's mother, brother, three other non-citizen relatives are now facing a review of their immigration status.
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., has proposed a private bill to grant permanent U.S. residency to Diallo's surviving family members.
"We took their son from them," Rangel aide Emile Milne told ABC News.
"This may not be the way to do immigration policy, but they're good people," Milne said. "If this is what they want, it's the least we can do."
While the majority of private bills relate to a single individual or a small family, one introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., would grant permanent resident status to a list of 40 immigrants.
Rush spokeswoman Sharon Jenkins would not elaborate when asked to explain the individuals' situations. "I really cannot offer any other details than what's in the bill," she said.
In the Senate, Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., has proposed more private laws than any of her colleagues, introducing 17 of the 62 currently on the calendar. Her colleague Carl Levin, D-Mich., ranks second as a sponsor of eight.
Most of Feinstein's bills involve immigration matters, and although she has publicly acknowledged that bills written "for the relief of…" seldom pass nowadays, she has said private bills highlight extraordinary cases that deserve special treatment.
An ABC News analysis of the 400 private pieces of legislation that succeeding in becoming law over the past 30 years reveals an interesting mix of issues and cases in which lawmakers have quietly bestowed special treatment.
Private laws reflect lawmakers "looking at one particular case and saying, 'Gosh, this person right in front of me is such a sympathetic person they need a break,'" Jan Ting, a Temple University law professor and former assistant commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, told ABC News.