Uncovering Policies on Immigration Court Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

During the COVID-19 pandemic, immigration courts have frequently closed without explanation or notice to the public. And most troubling, individuals have died from the virus after visiting immigration courts. However, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)—the agency that oversees immigration courts—has repeatedly ignored requests for information about its policies responding to the pandemic.

This Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeks records to close the gap on the public’s understanding of EOIR’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These records include:

  • Guidance on the health and safety measures immigration courts and immigration adjudication centers should follow in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Information about persons at immigration courts and immigration adjudication centers who may have been exposed to COVID-19 or who had suspected or confirmed cases.
  • Policies and procedures adopted at each immigration court and immigration adjudication center for responding to COVID-19. This includes guidance regarding the handling of removal cases— including the issuance of in absentia orders during the period of state and/or federal COVID-19 emergencies; health and safety measures that must be followed; and criteria to be considered when deciding to open or close immigration courts.
  • Communication among agency officials and court personnel regarding health and safety concerns related to COVID-19; criteria for opening and closing immigration courts and adjudication centers; and individuals at courts and adjudication centers who may have been exposed to or had confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The American Immigration Council filed this FOIA request with the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the National Immigration Projects of the National Lawyers Guild.

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