Published April 1, 2020
By: Richard Hanus, Esq.
I will start with the most recent events. The first concerns removal/deportation proceedings against detained (in custody) immigrants. Just yesterday, a variety of immigration lawyer advocacy groups, on behalf of several detained foreign nationals, filed suit against the U.S. Department of Justice and the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) to put a halt to the policy of requiring attorneys and their detained clients appear in person for removal proceedings. According to the lawsuit, the dangers associated with the outbreak of the Covid-19, especially at detention facilities and immigration court locations, put the health of lawyers and their clients at risk, and that a policy of forcing them to appear in person, as opposed to telephonically or via remote location, must be terminated. The lawsuit alleges, “EOIR is effectively forcing attorneys to choose between adequately representing their clients and jeopardizing their health; EOIR is also forcing detained immigrants to choose between their health and safety and their statutory, regulatory, and due process rights”.
The lawsuit further alleges that the current policies with regard to removal proceedings against detained immigrants are unconstitutional in light of our nation’s extraordinary health crisis. To that point, as cited in the complaint, federal courts across the U.S., in contrast to EOIR’s immigration courts, have temporarily suspended in person hearings in most contexts, allowing instead for participation via remote, off site locations.
Non-detained Removal Proceedings: Also as of yesterday, the Department of Justice announced that hearings for removal proceedings against all non-detained immigrants are being postponed at least through May 1, 2020. As a result, status hearings (Master Calendar) as well as final merits hearings (Individual Calendar) scheduled through May 1, 2020 will be cancelled and rescheduled.
Extension of closings for other immigration related government offices:
U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Service local offices:
The following scheduled, face to face interactions at DHS/CIS offices across the nation have been cancelled through at least until May 4, 2020:
- Applicant interviews for N-400 Citizenship, I-485 Adjustment of Status/Green Card, I-751 Removal of Condition, I-130 Visa Petitions and I-589 Asylum,
- Appointments for biometric fingerprinting at DHS/CIS Application Support Centers and
- Citizenship oath ceremonies at local DHS/CIS offices and Federal courthouses
Parties impacted by these cancellations can expect to eventually be notified by DHS/CIS of rescheduled dates.
DHS/CIS Service Centers which involve no face to face interactions with the public continue to operate. When it comes to filing for most immigration related benefits, such as N-400 for U.S. citizenship/naturalization, or I-130/I-485 for green card processing, the public can continue to submit such filings via regular mail or express delivery services as usual.
US DHS/CIS Allowing An Additional 60 Days to Respond
If you received a notice from a DHS/CIS office requesting additional evidence, or notifying you of an intention to deny or revoke approval on an immigration related filing – and the notice is dated between March 1, 2020 and May 1, 2020 (inclusive) – DHS/CIS has announced it will allow an extension of 60 days beyond the noted deadline date to receive a response. The announcement also included the same flexibility for deadlines to file an appeal or motion on most denied petitions or applications within the jurisdiction of DHS/CIS’ Administrative Appeals Office.
U.S. consular posts abroad: With regard to immigrant and temporary visa services at U.S. Embassies and Consulates across the globe, the public is urged to check with each individual post regarding operations and if and how they are curtailed.
Other government facilities: The State of Illinois’ Secretary of State/Department of Motor Vehicles offices are closed until at least April 7, 2020. All Drivers Licenses are extended for an additional 30 days beyond the first day these offices open. For more information on this announcement, visit their website:
PUBLISHED April 1, 2020– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2020, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois