The Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has hit the United States extremely hard. We have more than 1.5 million confirmed cases of the disease here. Federal leadership has been disappointing. Since the start of state and local closures back in March of this year, The Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) has not always communicated with attorneys and respondents efficiently throughout the pandemic.
Currently, EOIR has canceled all non-detained hearings through June 12, 2020. This includes master calendar (scheduling) hearings and trials. Notice of this cancellation came from the EOIR Twitter account – @DOJ_EOIR and in an email to attorneys. Fortunately, this message was sufficiently delivered.
However, EOIR has treated detained cases with an inadequate level of care in light of the virus. On May 15, 2020, just after 6:20AM, EOIR tweeted and emailed informing any interested party that “cases scheduled for a hearing today at Houston – Smith Street Immigration Court will be heard at the S. Gessner Road location.” These two courts both start at 9:00AM and are more than 30 minutes apart in moderate traffic. This kind of notice does not give attorneys and witnesses enough time to make the appropriate accommodations.
Often, EOIR has published the most up to date information about its response to COVID-19 by tweet, and not to their website – https://www.justice.gov/eoir. It is not a surprise when considering the habit of President Donald Trump to make policy by tweet. The official EOIR Twitter account has only 10,000 followers, so tweets are not a good way to get the final word out to the 1.1 million people in removal proceedings.
A National Association of Immigration Judges tweet commenting on EOIR communciation with the public in general.
The Chicago Immigration Court has cancelled all hearings for non-detained cases through June 12 and is not accepting filings at the 525 W Van Buren St. location (above)