As of March 20th, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reports that there are 413 confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) within the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, the true number is undoubtedly higher because testing is limited. Further, the number of confirmed cases is expected to rise dramatically in the coming weeks. Even in its early stages, the outbreak is already causing a major disruption in immigration cases in Boston and throughout the country. According to a report from WBUR, immigration lawyers are sounding the alarm over the impact of the virus.
Abrupt Closure of Immigration Court After a Positive COVID-19 Test Result
Last week, Boston immigration judge Jennifer A. Mulcahy abruptly closed her courtroom to protect health and safety. The decision was made after someone—whose identity was not released to the public—presumptively tested positive for the coronavirus. Similar to what has happened in other immigration courts around the country, the courtroom was temporarily closed down for deep cleaning.
Nationwide Suspension of Immigration Hearings for Non-Detained Immigrants
Based on guidance from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), immigration hearings for those not currently in detention have been temporarily suspended throughout the United States. For the time being, only detained immigrants will have their hearings move forward. One advantage of this is that fewer people will be in the courtroom.
The decision, which was important to protect public health, will still cause a lot of confusion and frustration for people whose cases have now been delayed. The Boston immigration court already has one of the lengthiest backlogs in the entire country. To add to the complications, most immigration courts still have not recovered from last year’s government shutdown.
Many Immigrants in Detention Facilities are at Serious Risk
The disruptions in immigration court are a real concern. A more worrying concern is the health risks faced by the thousands of immigrants who are currently locked in detention facilities. As attorney Mario Paredes of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute told reporters for WBUR, his organization is hearing considerable “worry from those who are still in detention.” As an example, newly detained immigrants are complaining that they are not being provided with enough soap or hand sanitizer.
Considering the fact that many of the people in detention facilities are elderly, immunocompromised, or otherwise in a high-risk group, the situation is an impending disaster. There are options available. The Trump Administration could let people out of these overcrowded facilities. Federal action is needed now. The Lawyers for Civil Rights—a Boston-based advocacy group—is calling for the immediate release of vulnerable immigrants.
Call Our Massachusetts Immigration Attorney for Immediate Assistance
At the Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, we are committed to providing exceptional, solutions-focused guidance to clients. To set up a fully private case evaluation, please call us right away. We represent immigrants in Boston and all around the wider region, including in Cambridge, Lynn, Framingham, Brookline, Waltham, and Brockton.