A long-awaited immigration court is expected to open in Charlotte on Nov. 4, giving the Carolinas their own place for removal hearings involving illegal aliens.
The two-judge court will open at 5701 Executive Center Drive, near Albemarle Road.
“An immigration court will speed up illegal alien deportations,” said Rep. Sue Myrick, a Charlotte Republican who has long advocated for the court, which was expected to open in 2007. “It will also help legal immigrants playing by the rules because they will no longer have to travel to Atlanta to deal with immigration matters.”
Harry Taylor, a Charlotte real estate agent who is challenging Myrick in the November election, said he, too, favors the new Charlotte court because it is more convenient for local folks with immigration issues.
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“It allows people here to know their counsel before they go to court rather than having to leave here, drive down there and hire counsel in Atlanta,” he said. “It makes a lot of sense to have it here.”
German De Castro, chairman of the Hispanic Democrats in Charlotte, agrees the court would be more convenient but thinks it's a waste of tax money to target undocumented immigrants who “haven't done anything but are coming here to better themselves.”
“It's costing us money when we don't have education, we don't have health care, we don't have good roads and we don't have transportation,” he said.
The court will serve both Carolinas in cases that until now have been handled in Georgia. In 2007, there were 2,883 immigration cases from North Carolina, and 490 from South Carolina, said Susan Eastwood, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office for Immigration Review.
“One of the reasons we put the court (in Charlotte) was because of the sustained caseload,” she said.
Eastwood said if the judges hadn't been named by Nov. 4, the court would use visiting judges for the first week and then use videoconferencing until the appointments take effect.
Across the country, there are 55 immigration courts, with another set to open in Omaha by month's end. Charlotte's would be the 57th.
When foreign-born people are charged by the Department of Homeland Security with violating immigration law, immigration judges determine whether they should be removed from the United States. Decisions can be challenged with the Board of Immigration Appeals.
Aliens are sometimes permitted to stay in the United States due to asylum, torture or other credible claims of possible danger they'd face if returned to their home country.
A 10-year lease was signed last October for 13,100 square feet, plus 52 parking spaces, for the new court, officially known as the Executive Office for Immigration Review Court.