PHOENIX - One of the judges deciding whether Arizona should be able to enforce its own immigration law was nearly deported, wrongfully, as a college student.
Carlos Bea, who became a resident alien in 1952, detailed for other judges three years ago how a mistake he made in applying for a visa while visiting Spain resulted in a hearing officer declaring that he had fled from the U.S. to avoid the draft. Bea managed to get the Board of Immigration Appeals to overturn that ruling.
"Only later, when I started handling a few immigration cases, did I realize how unusual was this appellate finding," Bea said.
Bea is one of three judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who will hear arguments, starting Monday in San Francisco, on whether U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton erred in granting an injunction against enforcing critical portions of the law, widely known as SB 1070.
Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed the law and has been its lead defender, will be there. Arizonans will have multiple opportunities to watch the proceeding. C-SPAN is scheduled to broadcast the hearing live. And a live broadcast of the 9 a.m. arguments will be shown at the federal courthouses in Tucson and Phoenix. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.
Bea told his story in 2007 in an address to the immigration judges and members of the Board of Immigration Appeals.
"You see before you an immigrant who was once under an order of deportation," the judge said, relating how his family fled from Spain in 1939 in anticipation of a German invasion, going first to Cuba before settling in California.
He became a resident alien in 1952, the same year that, as a sophomore basketball player at Stanford, he made the Cuban Olympic team. Bea said he left for Havana without a re-entry permit, confident that he could get a resident visa on his return, as he had in earlier trips to Cuba.
After the games in Finland, he delayed his return for a year to play basketball in Europe.
When he returned, because he said he was going back to Stanford, he was given a student visa. He said he didn't realize that it was a non-resident visa that "would interrupt my resident status until two years later, when I attempted to get U.S. citizenship."
His subsequent affidavit stating that he intended to remain in the United States prompted the Immigration and Naturalization Service to begin deportation proceedings. Although a hearing officer found that he had voluntarily abandoned residency to avoid the draft, an appeals board overturned that decision, and he was allowed to remain.
Bea is the newest of the three judges hearing the case, having been named to the court in 2003 by President George W. Bush.
Judge John Noonan, Bea's 9th Circuit colleague, was a 1985 appointment of Ronald Reagan.
Ira Ellman, a professor of law at Arizona State University, said Reagan likely picked Noonan, a Catholic, because of his strong anti-abortion sentiments, but he speculated that Noonan may not have been what Reagan expected on other issues.
"He also cares about people in a way that is sometimes a little bit antithetic to the way conservatives might want the court to be," Ellman said.
Last year Noonan wrote a decision for the appellate court barring federal magistrates in Tucson from taking guilty pleas from illegal immigrants in large groups. He said the procedure violates the rights of individual defendants.
Richard Paez, the third judge hearing the case, is a former legal-aid lawyer appointed by Democrat Bill Clinton. He wrote a decision declaring illegal the use of webcams by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio where outsiders could log on to see what was happening inside the county jail.