COVID-19 Wreaks Havoc on Immigration Courts With No Clear Plan to Stop Spread
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread throughout the United States, immigration courts around the country remain in turmoil.
The Executive Office for Immigration Review (“EOIR”) initially postponed all non-detained hearings when lockdowns began in March. However, EOIR refused to close all courts. Hearings for detained immigrants and unaccompanied children continued, despite the risks. Now, nearly five months later, EOIR still has no public plan to limit the spread of COVID-19 as it slowly begins to reopen courts around the country.
Immigration Courts Reopen Across the U.S.
Beginning in mid-June, EOIR began reopening some immigration courts, starting with the Honolulu immigration court.
Since then, courts have reopened for hearings in Boston, Dallas, Las Vegas, Hartford, New Orleans, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Newark, Baltimore, Detroit, and Arlington. However, following the rise in COVID-19 cases in Texas, the Dallas immigration court was open for less than a week before shutting again. It remains closed.
After the court reopened in Newark, immigration lawyers filed a lawsuit seeking to halt the court reopening. They explained that the court has not provided enough safety protocols. According to the lawsuit, they believe at least two deaths, including an immigration lawyer and a clerk for ICE in Newark, can already be traced to court hearings that occurred before the initial shutdown.