Politics

Immigration attorneys sue for closure of immigration courts during crisis

The Trump administration’s ongoing refusal to implement a full shutdown of the immigration court system is emblematic of its anti-immigrant animosity. While even the Supreme Court has delayed hearing cases, EOIR has continued some in-person hearings—and continued them as the coronavirus has now hit the immigration court system. Last week, courts in New Jersey and New York were forced to shut down after people there tested positive for the virus.

“The Immigration Courts are especially vulnerable to the spread of the Coronavirus,” the American Immigration Lawyers Association, one of the groups now suing, said at the time. “Every link in the chain that brings individuals to the court, from the use of public transportation, to security lines, crowded elevators, hallways, the cramped cubicle spaces of court staff, inadequate waiting room facilities in the courthouses, and scant sanitizing resources at the courts, all place lives at risk.”

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Much like the impeached president, the lawsuit notes EOIR’s chaotic ”practice of communicating key announcements, sometimes exclusively, through social media such as Twitter and Facebook. This includes court closures and changes to filing deadlines. The official EOIR Twitter account has issued midnight tweets declaring next day court closures. In at least one case, the announced court closures never occurred. EOIR also tweeted next day new filing deadlines at 6 pm the evening before. The tweet was later deleted, but not before sowing confusion and panic among immigration attorneys and their clients.”

Even Immigration and Customs Enforcement prosecutors have urged a shutdown of immigration courts nationwide, joining immigration judges and immigration attorneys to call the EOIR’s actions so far “insufficient,” they said in a letter released earlier this month. “Our nation is currently in the throes of a historic global pandemic,” the letter said. “The Department of Justice’s current response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its spread is insufficient and not premised on transparent scientific information. The DOJ is failing to meet its obligations to ensure a safe and healthy environment within our Immigration Courts.”

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