Court backlogs keeps illegal immigrants stuck for years

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Hundreds of illegal immigrants are being kept in our state in legal limbo for years. It's news that doesn't sit well with either side of the immigration debate. (KTRK)

Thousands of immigrants in the Houston area received notifications this week that their court dates have been postponed to 2019.

In the meantime, many of them are not allowed to work legally or get a driver's license.

"You're stuck without knowing what may happen to you for what could be four or five more years," Immigration Attorney John Nechman said.

Nechman said he rarely even goes to court anymore. There simply are not enough judges to handle the thousands of people being arrested while crossing the border.

"Congress has spent all this money to increase the number of enforcement officers working the border," Nechman said. "Virtually nothing has been given to increase the number of judges and support staff to assist them."

As a result, people like 65-year-old Javier Valdez find themselves in a holding pattern.

"I don't know anything else except America," Valdez said. "I get chills every time I hear the National Anthem."

Nechman came to the states legally with his parents when he was three years old. In 2008, he said he tried to get his green card renewed and was told he could be deported to Mexico, a country where he has no remaining family.

His case has been postponed three times. On Monday, he got the letter saying it would be postponed once again, this time to 2019.

"Sometimes it really hits home. I can't sleep," Valdez said, "but I try to go on with my life, be a grandparent and a good husband."

Nechman said there's no guarantee the 2019 court dates will be final.

"It's chaos. It's chaos for all of us," Nechman said. "Now if you go down to the immigration courts, the halls are empty. You don't know if the judges are behind the doors or not."

He said the backlog is almost encouraging people to work illegally and use illegal documents to apply for driver's licenses.

According to the American Immigration Council, immigration court backlogs have increased 163 percent from 2003 to 2015.

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