Non-Detained Courts Remain Closed Through 8/21
Today, the Department of Justice announced, through Twitter, that all non-detained immigration courts without an announced re-opening date, will remain closed through at least August 21, 2020. This means the earliest non-detained hearings will return is Monday, August 24, 2020.
For anyone with any hearing scheduled on August 21st or earlier, that hearing is now cancelled. This announcement applies to the immigration courts in our region, including Memphis, Kansas City, and Dallas. It does not apply to the detained courts. The immigration courts in LaSalle and Oakdale remain open and continue to conduct hearings.
Keeping the immigration courts closed is the right decision. COVID continues to rage, particularly in the South and grouping dozens, or more, people together for immigration court hearings and forcing those people to travel hundreds of miles is not a good idea.
Regardless, the DOJ needs to get this situation figured out. There is no reason we should be receiving a new announcement through social media every single Monday. We know COVID is not getting any better next Monday and probably not for a few weeks after that. It will probably not improve substantially this year. It isn't a mystery.
The immigration courts need to pick a date - any date. They can state they will not reopen until at least that date and, as the date approaches, they will re-evaluate. They can also lay out a plan to only entertain specific types of hearings for the first 4, 6, 8 weeks - whatever - after the courts finally reopen. Something. Anything to just give us something to plan on.
We have prepared for so many trials since March only learning days after filing the evidence and briefing that court's been cancelled. Again, I am happy court's been cancelled. I do not have a problem with that. I do not want to get COVID. I do not want my clients to get COVID. ICE and the courts may be surprised to hear this, but I legitimately like some of those people and I don't want trial attorneys, judges, or court staff to get COVID either.
But we have to be able to plan. That is difficult under the best of circumstances during a pandemic, but it's only made worse by having to wait until Monday of each week to confirm the inevitable extension and to have to continue working to prepare cases for trials that will inevitably be cancelled.
The DOJ owes all of its stakeholders, respondents and staff better than to keep jerking everyone around like this.