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Immigration & SB 1070

Immigration cases could clog Arizona court system

Attorneys in Arizona fear legal battles over the legality of the state's new immigration law could overwhelm the court system.

"We already have a backlog of cases," immigration attorney Maria Jones told The Arizona Republic. "I think it's going to triple."

It could take years to fine-tune some of the law's more ambiguous and legally onerous provisions, Jones, chairwoman of the bar association's Immigration Law Section and owner of the Law Offices of Maria V. Jones in Phoenix, told the Arizona Republic.

As cases wait longer for resolution, it could also result in more undocumented residents applying for temporary work visas and permanent citizenship, according to research by the Arizona Capitol Times.

The new law will add to a processing backlog that already has caused federal authorities to release an increasing number of illegal immigrants back into the U.S. to await deportation hearings. And if nationwide figures can be applied to Arizona, one in four of those who are released from federal custody fail to appear in court.

The arrest-and-release policy is a little-known part of federal immigration law that allows illegal immigrants to challenge deportation and obtain legal residency, and a driver’s license, as long as they meet certain conditions. If more illegal immigrants are apprehended and processed through the federal system – which is expected to happen after Arizona’s immigration law takes effect on July 29 – then an even greater number would qualify for legal status.

“In a sense, it’s like there’s some incentive to get caught,” said Tucson immigration attorney Maurice Goldman. “Theoretically, more people would end up in front of immigration judges, which means more would get released.”

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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