Citing Coronavirus Risks and a New Irresponsible Policy for the Immigration Courts, Groups Urge Protecting the Health and Safety of Government Employees, Lawyers, and Immigrants

Citing Coronavirus Risks and a New Irresponsible Policy for the Immigration Courts, Groups Urge Protecting the Health and Safety of Government Employees, Lawyers, and Immigrants

March 23, 2020

WASHINGTON—In a letter calling for prioritizing the health and safety of government employees, detained individuals, and their legal representatives amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, together with the National Immigrant Justice Center, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and more than 100 other organizations, urged the U.S. Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to immediately authorize the robust and automatic use of remote options for immigration court appearances and attorney-client meetings.

The letter comes as a policy, effective today, requires that attorneys meeting with clients in ICE detention centers bring their own personal protective equipment in order to be allowed into the facilities.

The letter calls this new policy “alarming” and says that “the suggestion that such equipment be diverted from first responders who are already facing such a critical shortage is particularly unreasonable and unhelpful.”  According to the letter, “ICE and EOIR could instead choose to uniformly utilize telephonic and [video] appearance procedures."

The groups note that they are making these recommendations in light of ICE and EOIR’s decision to continue detention and to keep the immigration court offices open, putting everyone’s health at risk. 

“We stand with all Americans in wanting to keep everyone safe and healthy. Maximizing the use of technology in this unprecedented moment—unlike anything most of us have seen in our lives—can help us get through this global pandemic. ICE and the immigration courts must use commonsense solutions to help keep everyone safe, while ensuring a fair process,” said Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council.

“COVID-19 has sown fear and uncertainty through our nation and throughout the world, but there are things we know for sure: the use of remote technology and an increased reliance on alternatives to detention are vital tools in the fight against this calamitous virus, and medical supplies must not be diverted from healthcare providers on the front lines of this public health crisis. EOIR and ICE must act quickly and efficiently to implement these measures for the safety of our communities,” said Ben Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

The letter is available here.

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For more information, contact the American Immigration Council:

Maria Frausto at [email protected] or 202-507-7526; or Tessa Wiseman at [email protected] or 202-507-7661.

Media Contact

Maria Frausto, Senior Communications Manager 

[email protected]

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