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Detained Immigration Courts Continue to Operate as Normal

Mar24
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Detained Immigration Courts Continue to Operate as Normal

The Executive Office for Immigration Review has failed to enact any meaningful changes in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.  While many other parts of the immigration system have made drastic changes to their operations (USCIS canceling all in-person interviews and swearing-in ceremonies and stopping biometrics appointments), EOIR has refused to halt all in-person hearings with detained immigrants.

In an incredible demonstration of solidarity, immigration attorneys, immigration judges and ICE prosecutors banded together to demand a halt to all immigration court proceedings.  The American Immigration Lawyers Association (representing immigration attorneys around the country), the National Association of Immigration Judges (the Immigration Judge’s Union) and the American Federation of Government Employees (ICE attorney Union) wrote a joint document to EOIR urging that all immigration courts be closed and hearings cease.  The groups all recommended that only bond hearings for detained immigrants should go forward and should be conducted telephonically to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  With the exception of a few detained immigration courts, hearings are moving forward in detention centers as if there were no pandemic.

In a move that will severely restrict the ability of detained immigrants to access legal representation, ICE has implemented a policy requiring legal visitors to bring and wear their own personal protective equipment (PPE) when entering any immigration detention center.  This appears to be whether an attorney is going to attend a court hearing or visit a client in the detention center.  ICE issued this policy knowing full well that even medical providers could not obtain PPE when treating patients with COVID-19.  The result of this policy will mean that detained immigrants will not be able to have personal access to legal representation resulting in attorneys not being able to fully prepare their clients for hearings.

The demand from organizations for EOIR to cease operations continues.  If you or a loved one are in deportation proceedings and don’t know what is going on with your case, call Joseph and Hall for a consultation.

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