Immigrants could wait until 2019 to have cases resolved
Thousands of immigrants seeking legalization through the U.S. court system have had their hearings canceled and are being told by the government that it may be 2019 or later before their futures are resolved.
Some immigration lawyers fear the delay will leave their clients at risk of deportation as evidence becomes dated, witnesses disappear, sponsoring relatives die and dependent children become adults.
The increase in cancellations began late last summer after the Justice Department prioritized the tens of thousands of Central American migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, most of them mothers with children and unaccompanied minors.
Immigration lawyers in cities that absorbed a large share of those cases, including New York, San Antonio, Los Angeles and Denver, say they've had hearings canceled with little notice and received no new court dates. Work permits, green cards granting permanent residency status, asylum claims, and family reunifications hang in the balance.
Denver immigration lawyer David Simmons said he's never seen such a standstill in nearly 30 years of practice. "There is no maneuverability," he said. "It's as if we have no court at all."
One of Simmons' clients, Maximiano Vazquez-Guevarra, 34, recently won his appeal to become a legal permanent resident. But his case still needs to go in front of an immigration judge one last time, and it has been pulled from the docket.
Vazquez, who is from the Mexican state of Guanajuato, entered the U.S. illegally in 1998. He has been fighting deportation since 2011, when he came to authorities' attention after his second driving under the influence charge. He lives with his American wife, Ashley Bowen, and their 6-year...