Whereas immigration courts in New York, Atlanta and Memphis have shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, San Diego stays open to the general public.
On Thursday afternoon dozens of asylum seekers within the Stay in Mexico program nonetheless needed to report back to courtroom. To get there, they needed to cross the border, pack themselves right into a van and spend hours sitting inches away from one another whereas ready to see a choose.
As soon as contained in the courtroom, safety guards requested them to squeeze into wood benches — with an obvious disregard for the 6-foot social distancing pointers medical consultants are urging — whereas ready for an immigration choose to name their names.
It’s a state of affairs that has come more and more below fireplace from teams representing federal prosecutors, immigration judges and attorneys, which collectively have urged the Division of Justice to close down all immigration courts throughout the pandemic.
“The division’s decision-making course of has been utterly opaque and inconsistent with the general public well being consultants,” mentioned Ashley Tabaddor, the president of the Nationwide Affiliation of Immigration Judges. “It simply doesn’t make any sense.”
At the moment, immigration courts throughout the nation have postponed circumstances of people who aren’t detained. Nevertheless, courts are nonetheless listening to circumstances of migrants who’re pressured to stay in Mexico during their immigration proceedings, which is why San Diego’s courtroom remains to be open.
The DOJ has not issued a public response to requires full closure.
On Thursday, the scene within the downtown San Diego courtroom performed out as standard. In teams of 5, asylum seekers entered the courtroom and sat on the identical benches that the earlier group had used, touched the identical door deal with to enter and put their fingers on the identical desk as they sat in entrance of the choose.
Not one of the surfaces have been sanitized between every session.
Exterior the courtroom, a CDC poster inspired folks to “keep at house if you find yourself sick,” “clear and disinfect regularly touched objects and surfaces” and “keep away from shut contact with people who find themselves sick.”
However then the courtroom proceedings drifted from regular process. In each case witnessed by The San Diego Union-Tribune, Immigration Choose Man Grande cited a coverage memo and rescheduled their hearings to Could due to the coronavirus.
“Yesterday, my company issued a coverage memorandum titled, ‘Immigration Court docket Practices Throughout the Declared Nationwide Emergency Regarding the OVID-19 Outbreak,” Grande mentioned.
Then the choose defined that the aim of the coverage was to “promote the protection” of the migrants, judges, courtroom workers, attorneys and the general public.
“In compliance with that coverage memorandum, I really feel it’s essential to reschedule your listening to till Could 7, 2020, at 1 p.m.,” he mentioned.
Grande instructed the migrants that they may use the additional time to higher put together their circumstances or search for an immigration lawyer. Then he supplied a pleasant farewell.
“See you subsequent time, take care and keep secure,” he’d say.
The courtroom couldn’t merely mail the asylum seekers a discover that their circumstances had been rescheduled as a result of a lot of them don’t have an deal with. That’s been one of many greatest criticisms of the Stay in Mexico coverage, also referred to as Migrant Safety Protocols, or MPP.
Migrants ready in Mexico transfer round from one shelter to a different, and a few have struggled with homelessness. Due to that unstable residing state of affairs, they haven’t any deal with the place they’ll obtain notifications from the immigration courtroom for updates like rescheduled circumstances.
So as an alternative of sending a letter, the courts are asking migrants to journey throughout a worldwide pandemic solely to be despatched again to Mexico.
“It’s ridiculous,” mentioned Jeremy McKinney, the second vp of the American Immigration Attorneys Affiliation. “It exhibits the elemental flaw with the MPP program, which is that what you’re doing is placing asylum seekers in makeshift refugee camps that don’t have addresses.”
Due to the poor sanitary circumstances in a few of these camps, McKinney added, they’re locations the place viruses can unfold shortly.
By leaving the courts open to listen to circumstances like those heard in San Diego on Thursday, attorneys and judges argued, “DOJ is failing to fulfill its obligation to make sure a secure and wholesome atmosphere inside our Immigration Courts.”
“Little question, closing the courts is a tough determination that may impose vital hardship for these within the Migrant Safety Protocols and detained Respondents,” their joint letter states. “However these are extraordinary occasions.”
window.fbAsyncInit = function() ;
(function(d, s, id)(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));