On March 18th, 2020, the Los Angeles Times published an important piece detailing how the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak is already adversely affecting our strained immigration system. Immigration judges and immigrant rights advocates are pleading with the federal government for both assistance and clarity—but, thus far, the response has been very limited. Here, our immigration attorney in Los Angeles highlights three of the most alarming issues raised in the article.
1. Immigration Courts are Often Packed
Medical experts and health professionals strongly recommend social distancing to help us deal with the outbreak. Indeed, social distancing is one of the most important things that people can do to help slow the spread of the virus. Unfortunately, this presents a serious challenge in immigration courts—where many people are often packed into relatively small spaces. The Los Angeles Times reports that immigration judges and local staff are trying to do their best to separate people and disinfect the space, but the task is extremely difficult. Our strained immigration system is simply not in a good position to handle this type of crisis.
2. Lack of Clear Guidelines for Inevitable Delays
To make matters even more problematic, there has been a lack of leadership and guidance from the federal government. As Ashley Tabaddor, the President of the National Association of Immigration Judges told the Los Angeles Times, the federal government is largely “sticking their head in the sand.” There are already enormous backlogs in immigration cases and, to this point, not much guidance has been provided for how courts should handle the cases that will not be able to move forward. While some immigration courts are still open, many of them have been closed and a significant number of hearings have been postponed.
3. Detained Immigrants May Be at Serious Risk
Finally, there are deep concerns over the conditions in immigration detention centers. By far, this is the most disturbing and dangerous problem we are dealing with. Wendy Parmet, a public health professor, called prisons and immigration detention facilities in “a tinderbox”—presenting serious health risks for immigrants, staff members, and the community as a whole. The public health problem has been exacerbated by the Trump Administration’s draconian immigration enforcement policies. Currently, many ICE facilities are overcrowded and there have long been complaints raised over the “egregious” health and safety violations in these detention centers. Without immediate action from the federal government, the COVID-19 pandemic could turn into a catastrophe for vulnerable immigrants.
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At the Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, we take pride in providing trustworthy, personalized legal representation to our clients. With deep experience and a thorough knowledge of the law, our attorneys handle the full range of immigration cases. Call us now to set up your confidential case evaluation. We serve communities throughout Southern California, including in Los Angeles County, Orange County, San Bernardino County, Ventura County, and beyond.