As many Americans are aware, there has been a “government shutdown” since Tuesday, October 1. The shutdown is a result of the House and Senate being unable to agree on a bill to fund the government. Now luckily, a shutdown doesn’t mean what it sounds like it means. “Essential” functions of the government continue to run as they do; however, “Non-Essential” functions are temporarily shut down. One such “Non-Essential” function may not feel so “Non-Essential” to the people it affects. 16 immigration courts across the country have been closed during the shutdown, and another 25 have been partially closed. With the only immigration courts remaining fully operational being those located inside detention centers. To Estrada Gonzalez, whose green-card hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, October 1st, the immigration court’s operation in Arizona felt pretty essential. Gonzalez had become eligible to receive legal status after marrying the daughter of a naturalized U.S. citizen. Gonzalez’s green card had been approved and all that remained was the hearing. Additionally, his driver’s license and work permit had expired because they are linked to the hearing, and can’t renew until there is a new hearing. His next hearing could be rescheduled for months or years later.
Gonzalez is not the only one affected, the already overloaded immigration court system will see a huge accumulation of hearing reschedulings, and the importance of those hearings being when they were supposed to be was critical to those whom are parties to them. The shutdown will positively affect some illegal immigrants as well. For those who faced deportation hearings with no chance of winning, they will be allowed to remain in the U.S. until their hearings are rescheduled; a time period which could end up being years. So the question is, no matter which side you are on when it comes to the immigration debate, are federal immigration courts an “Essential” function? Or are they of secondary importance. Is it reasonable to make people who have been waiting for years for a hearing to wait another series of years? Or vise versa for those who are sure to be deported?