Local News

Immigration Appeals Can Take Years To Decide

Posted August 25, 2004 4:13 a.m. EDT

— Technically, people who appeal their immigration status can stay as long as it takes to have their cases reviewed. The Board of Immigration Appeals in Virginia, which falls under the Department of Justice, is responsible for dealing with these cases, but a recent case is raising concerns about possible flaws in the system.

Randy Lewis is with a group called "Stop the Invasion." He was not suprised to find out that Chikele Gideon, arrested Monday after a fatal car accident in Apex, overstayed his visa. Under a court order, Gideon was supposed to leave the country last year. He appealed, and the case is still pending.

"There is no homeland security. It's smoke and mirrors. Literally, anybody can come to this country. It's not hard," Lewis said.

N.C. State University Public Policy Professor Bill Boettcher said people often fall through the cracks.

"Since Sept. 11, there has been a lot of money flowing into the Department of Homeland Security, not enough to deal with what is an overwhelming problem," he said.

Lynn Calder, an immigration attorney who represents people facing deportation, said the Board of Immigration is actually reviewing cases quicker than it ever has. She is worried her clients' rights are being compromised.

"They have every right to stay while their appeal is pending -- stay legally," Calder said. "With the Board of Immigration appeals, it becomes much riskier because we're worried judges aren't taking enough time with the cats."

Since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the Board of Immigration has doubled the number of cases it rules on each month, despite the fact that the number of judges hearing those cases has been cut in half.

In light of Monday's accident, local immigration officials have put a detainer on Gideon, which means if he makes bail on the death by vehicle charge, he will be taken into federal custody.