Washington, DC – Today, thousands of Americans from across the nation joined Kids In Need of Defense (KIND) to call on the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) to close immigration courts. In a petition sent to EOIR, 6,065 signers urged leadership to follow federal CDC health guidelines and postpone court proceedings for children in Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) custody.
In a statement, KIND President Wendy Young said, “During a serious public health crisis, the federal government has a responsibility to provide uniform guidance and ensure its policies adhere to guidelines informed by expert scientists and epidemiologists. It is reckless and irresponsible to ask attorneys and courthouse workers in a random handful of jurisdictions across the nation to disregard state and local guidance to shelter-in-place and shutdown non-essential, in-person businesses.”
Today’s petition to EOIR noted that every day the immigration courts remain open during the COVID-19 crisis, children, judges, respondents, law enforcement, attorneys, and the public are put at risk.
Currently, the U.S. Immigration Courts, which are part of the U.S. Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review, are still conducting hearings for detained individuals, including unaccompanied children in the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While EOIR has postponed non-detained hearings until June 29, 2020, they have not suspended court filing deadlines, which still require attorneys and individuals to go through extreme lengths in an insecure public health environment to either file documents and motions in person or by mail.
In March, KIND detailed a set of commonsense precautions to protect unaccompanied children and the professionals who serve them, including a request that EOIR postpone immigration court hearings for detained unaccompanied children to minimize risk of coronavirus exposure. Similar calls were also made by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the National Association of Immigration Judges, and other legal professional organizations.
Link to Petition Signers: Close the Courts!
Media Contact: Megan McKenna, MMCKENNA@SUPPORTKIND.ORG, 202-631-9990