Nearly five months ago, I reported that the lasting impact of SB1070 – assuming it ever goes into effect the way its drafters intended – may be to increase the number of illegal immigrants who are given temporary work visas and permanent U.S. citizenship.
A major part of that story is the severe backlog in immigration court. Several immigration attorneys I spoke with told me that the courts have been inundated with deportation proceedings, and cases were regularly being scheduled for 2013 and beyond. One attorney said he had a hearing scheduled for February 2014.
The increase in border enforcement that began two years ago is now resulting in an even bigger backlog in Arizona immigration courts, which only have five judges. Attorney David Asser told me this week that Judge John Richardson, who operates out of the Phoenix court, is scheduling cases for May 2015.
Those cases are for immigrants who hope to stay in the United States. Last year, more than 5,100 illegal immigrants who were processed through federal immigration courts in Arizona were released from custody on bond while they fought deportation. The vast majority of them were eligible for work authorization documents that are valid until their cases are resolved.
And that five-year schedule is only for the final hearing on the merits of a case, not appeals. Asser said it takes upwards of three years for an appeal to be resolved.
During that whole time, the immigrants will be living with their families and working in the state just as legally as those who crafted the nation’s toughest immigration law.
- Jim Small