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Immigration Law

The Impact of COVID-19 on Noncitizens and Across the U.S. Immigration System

Jorge Loweree, Aaron Reichlin-Melnick and Walter Ewing, Ph.D., May 27, 2020

"The COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) pandemic, and the federal government’s response, has disrupted virtually every aspect of the U.S. immigration system. Visa processing overseas by the Department of State, as well as the processing of some immigration benefits within the country by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), have come to a near standstill. Entry into the United States along the Mexican and Canadian borders, including by asylum seekers, has been severely restricted. Immigration enforcement actions in the interior of the country have been curtailed, although they have not stopped entirely. Tens of thousands of people remain in immigration detention despite the high risk of COVID-19 transmission in crowded jails, prisons, and detention centers that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) uses to hold noncitizens. The pandemic led to the suspension of almost all immigration court hearings and limited the functioning of those few courts which remain open.

This report seeks to provide a comprehensive overview of COVID-19-related disruptions throughout the immigration system and identifies recommendations for adjustments and improvements to the federal response. Given that the landscape of immigration policy is changing rapidly in the face of the pandemic, this report will be updated as needed."