The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) announced late Friday that Immigration Courts are postponing non-detained Master Calendar Hearings beginning Monday, March 16, 2020 through April 10, 2020 for hearings in Newark, New York City, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco and Boston. The Seattle Immigration Court was previously closed indefinitely in response to the outbreak. Unfortunately, at the risk of further spreading COVID-19, EOIR maintains that all other Immigration Court locations remain operational—this includes the Philadelphia Immigration Court.
The risk to the immigrants, court personnel, immigration judges and attorneys practicing before the court should be safeguarded with the immediate closing of all Immigration Courts. EOIRs failure to close the courts minimizes health concerns and increases the potential for those without symptoms to transmit the virus unfairly risking the health of those involved in the Immigration Courts.
John Martin, Regional Public Information Officer for EOIR, stated in an email on March 13, 2020, that EOIR does not “plan any mass closure of immigration courts.” Moreover, he asserted that attorneys and immigrants are free to file motions to postpone any hearings. He advised that “adjudicating motions based on an active illness affecting an attorney or a respondent is not new to our immigration judges.” While the professionalism of the court is noted, EOIR’s response clearly fails to address the scope of this pandemic.
Indeed, this policy demonstrates the disconnect between the federal government’s failure to acknowledge the scope of the problem while state governments are racing to contain the spread of the virus. For example, the Philadelphia Immigration Court remains open despite schools being closed and businesses being advised to limit hours throughout southeast Pennsylvania.
EOIR should immediately suspend Immigration Court hearings throughout the country as a measure for limiting the spread of COVID-19.
If you have an Immigration Court case and need assistance, please contact Stephen Antwine, Esq. at Green & Spiegel, LLC, at (215) 395-8959.
*All non-detained Master Calendar Hearings have been cancelled for the period of 3/16/2020 through 4/10/2020 for all Immigration Courts nationwide. Immigrants will receive a notice by mail with the new hearing dates. Individual Calendar Hearings (final, merits hearings) during that period will proceed as scheduled for Immigration Courts not previously closed.
**Effective March 18, 2020, all Master Calendar Hearings and Individual Merits Hearings are postponed for non-detained Immigration Court dockets nationwide. Additionally, the following courts will be closed completely: Sacramento, Los Angeles-Olive Street, Charlotte, Atlanta-Peachtree, Houston, New York (both locations), Newark, Louisville, and Memphis. Immigration Courts not listed as closed are still accepting filings for ongoing cases by mail and electronic filing.
***The York Immigration Court's detained docket continues to operate. Attorneys have been advised, by a Standing Order of Immigration Judge Weil, that they may appear telephonically for all Master Calendar Hearings.
****On March 24, 2020, the Justice Department reopened the Newark Immigration Court and the Seattle Immigration Court, despite each of these areas suffering high rates of coronavirus infection.
*****Effective through April 10, 2020, all Immigration Courts have postponed all non-detained hearings, meaning all Master Calendar Hearings and Individual Merits Hearings. Also, effective March 23, 2020, all Migrant Protection Protocols master calendar and merit hearings previously scheduled through April 22 have been rescheduled.
******EOIR has announced that all non-detained Master Calendar Hearings and Individual Calendar Hearings through May 1, 2020 have been postponed. Respondents in these proceedings will receive a notification re-scheduling their hearings for a later date. The Immigration Courts continue to operate their detained dockets, and most courts are open, with limited staff, to accept applications, evidence and other filings.