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Immigration Law

Immigration Courts Issuing "Standing Orders" Severely Limiting Rights During Hearings But Not Sharing Them With the Public

Matthew Hoppock, Mar. 25, 2020

"The Immigration Courts are secretly issuing a series of “standing orders” describing their process for handling the coronavirus. Unfortunately, nobody at EOIR is actually announcing these in any formal way. Some are being added periodically to page 234 of the Immigration Court practice manual, but not all of them. And some of the orders listed there seem to have since been superseded by new orders. Most of the new orders don’t say whether they supersede the prior orders.

These orders in some cases severely limit the rights of immigrants and their attorneys to object to evidence if appearing by phone (forcing attorneys to travel to the Immigration Courts despite their cities being on lockdown and the real risk of catching COVID-19). But it’s not even clear which ones apply and which ones don’t.

Below, I am posting all the Standing Orders that I’ve found by running a google search. The Immigration Court practice manual is supposed to contain all standing orders, but it doesn’t. It has gotten updated several times this week with some of these orders, but some of the orders in the manual are outdated and some of the orders the courts have issued aren’t in the manual at all.

If I find more, I’ll post them here.

Some of these are extremely concerning. For example, a number of these orders say a person who opts to appear via telephone (to avoid getting sick or getting court staff sick) waives their right to object to evidence if the DHS files it the day of the hearing. Others say if the court cannot reach the attorney’s phone number after one try, that attorney is required to appear in-person at all future hearings, forever.

EOIR has an e-filing system called ECAS that would solve that problem, but they haven’t made it available for use in most courts. EOIR also has fax machines and e-mail, but none of those can be used for filings."